It was early in the morning and Slava, the skipper, was on watch when the steering system failed. The cable that joins the wheels to the rudder broke. We all came on deck and tried to fix it. Finally – as the sun came up – we solved it with a rope instead of a cable. The wind was getting stronger and there were more waves. We sailed for a while with both sails up – the genoa and mainsail with one reef, but the wind increased and the steering wasn’t working well. Five seconds later we saw the port shroud snap at the bottom and immediately afterwards there was a ‘boom’ and the mast cracked in two parts: it was completely open. The four of us watched as the mast and sails fell to the starboard side and into the water, still attached to the boat. We lost control as there was so much rigging in the water. By now it was 1000 UTC and we were 600 miles from St Lucia, at 45° West. We spent six hours cutting everything free. We didn’t have proper tools – just a small saw and two hammers. The waves and the rigging were hitting the boat at the same time – it was a difficult moment! We got to work quickly. I felt stable in the boat but I was worried by how hard the rig was hitting the hull ...