US Team Tries to Come Back in Boat Race

Three-thousand miles behind, with about 18,000 to go.

That's the state of Team Adventure, the sole American contestant left in a high-speed, high-stakes sailing contest around the world.

Team Adventure has fallen into a distant fourth, after having to spend a crucial six days in port in Cape Town, South Africa.

The 13-member Club Med team, skippered by New Zealander Grant Dalton, is currently in the lead, followed by the mostly French team of Innovative Explorer, and the Polish Warta Polpharma.

Only the British-skippered Team Legato trails Team Adventure.

Crew Down by Almost a Third

Team Adventure was forced to port when a giant wave damaged its boat, and seriously injured crew members Jeffery Wargo, from Seattle, Wash., and Mikael Lundh from Sweden.

And things won't likely look any better when they finally rejoin the race. Team Adventure will head back to sea with less than three-quarters of its original crew.

Despite lobbying from Team Adventure, the directors refused to allow replacements for the two injured crewmen.

The rules are quite clear on this point, the directors said through the race's Web site.

"Each competitor's skipper may only put ashore members of his crew during the period for medical reasons. Any members of the crew put ashore may not be replaced," it said.

And two others have quit. Rob Myles, the boat's rigger and foredeck man, from Newport, R.I., and a veteran of the America's Cup circuit, cited personal reasons for leaving the race.

And Rick Deppe, the cameraman and communications expert, from Annapolis, Md., said the speeds were just too much and he was afraid of the boat flipping over.

Skipper Cam Lewis said in Cape Town on Monday: "While we are disappointed to see Rick Deppe and Rob Myles leave the team, these are very individual decisions. I respect their choices and wish them well in their future sailing endeavors."

"Overall, I am confident we can safely sail the balance of the race ."

Team Adventure left Barcelona, Spain on Jan. 1 with 14 members.

One Detour Leads to Another

The Team Adventure boat went to port after a treacherous combination of high speeds, huge waves, and icebergs — some a quarter-mile wide — forced them from their course in the southern ocean.

But as they turned north, at 30 mph, the boat plowed into a giant wave, cracking the front beam that holds the catamaran's hulls together.

"We've probably seen 2 million waves out here," said co-navigator Larry Rosenfeld. "We just happened to hit one big enough to slam into the boat and do damage."

At the moment of impact, several of the crew members were tossed through the air. One suffered severe whiplash. Another crushed a vertebrae as he was thrown into the galley.

Lewis had no choice but to head to Cape Town for the sake of the boat — and his two shipmates.

Before the accident, Lewis was running a close second — fewer than 200 miles behind the leader, Club Med, and 2,000 miles ahead of the straggler, Tony Bullimore's Team Lagato.

America's only other entry, the Playstation — skippered by Chicago Billionaire Steve Fossett — dropped out almost two weeks ago after its boat was damaged.

"I've concluded we're not prepared for the Southern Ocean with weak, old sails and only one dagger board," Fossett said at the time.

Hope Lives on the Waves

Team members told ABCNEWS their spirits were high and they believe they had a strong shot at second place. And they maintain they still do not rule out winning the race.

The contest has attracted major corporate sponsors that have pitched in with millions of dollars, as contestants hope to shatter Jules Verne's vision — he wrote Around the World in 80 Days in 1873 — by circumnavigating the globe in only 65 days.

Although the personnel crunch has increased the challenges for Team Adventure, Lewis, a two-time world sailing champion with a reputation for taking chances, remained optimistic.

"I hope we have a chance to chase down the leaders. They're a long way ahead, but anything can happen in boat racing," Lewis said.