Ady Gils fateful journey

THE doomed Ady Gil, that Mad Max-styled anti-whaling attack ship that sank yesterday after a dramatic collision in Antarctica, had visited Ballina a year ago with its builder and skipper, Peter Bethune.

It is believed Mr Bethune, a New Zealander who has a cousin in the Lismore area, was behind the wheel at the time of the collision.

The loss of the composite Kiwi trimaran has reignited the debate between those for and againstAntarctic whaling.

In a previous life the vessel,then named Earthrace, promoted economy of fuel and slipperydesign.

Its Ballina visit was arranged by Mr Bethune’s cousin, Murray Ings, who until recently lived at Georgica, north of Lismore.

The vessel, built from carbon and Kevlar cloth, bound to structural foam with epoxy resin, was built by the Kiwi entrepreneur specifically to break the world record for aglobal circumnavigation by sea, which it did in 61 days, smashing UK boat Cable & Wireless Adventurer’s record by two weeks.

Within months owner and skipper Mr Bethune announced the boat was for sale, with a price tag of $1.5m, and that he was keen to sell it to the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society while remaining skipper of the intriguing vessel.

While it appeared flimsy for the task, the sturdy multihull had plunged up to five metres under the surface, faced 12-metre waves and 80-knot winds during its epiccircumnavigation.

At an average speed of six knots it could travel 24,000km on one tank of fuel, and at 25 knots it had a range of 3700km.

In its birthplace of New Zealand Earthrace underwent a refit designed to make the narrow hulled trimaran tough enough for Antarctica.

That included laying up an additional four to eight layers of Kevlar cloth, held together with epoxy resin, above and below the vessel’s waterline.

In addition the renamed Ady Gil, in honour of the wealthy benefactor who helped acquire the boat, was fitted out with new broadband radar that cannot be detected, FLIR night vision and Iridium open port communications so the crew were able to upload videos and pictures all the time.

One of its secret weapons against the Japanese whaling fleet was its striking all-black paint job, featuring a new type of paint that scattered radar signals making the vessel hard to detect.

Sea Shepherd’s founder, Captain Paul Watson, made it clear from the outset that he intended to place the Ady Gil in harms way – particularly as an intercept and blockingweapon against the Japanese whaling fleet.

Peter Bethune said last July that he was ready for the challenge, saying to an on-line interviewer: “If they ever hit us with an explosive harpoon it’ll be massive damage, but certainly we’ll do our best to get in their way.

“If they hit us it will always be their guy that pulled the trigger. But hopefully things won’t come to that.”

Its deployment in Antarcticwaters proved useful for Sea Shepherd’s campaign of harassment against Japanese whalers.

And in YouTube footage itappeared the Ady Gil was deploying rope and netting into the path of the Japanese whaling ship Shonan Maru 2 just before it was run over.

At the time of the collision it appeared the Ady Gil was idling forward into the path of the ship, which evidently also veered into the path of the fragile trimaran.

Either way, the futuristic anti-whaler proved no match for a slow-steaming steel ship.

More than 12,000 whales have been killed since 1986, mostly byJapan. It targets more than 500 whales around Antarctica each summer.

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