NEWPORT, R.I. — And then there were 17.
For Warren Luhrs, a collision, gear and equipment failure and two dismastings were enough. He dropped out of the solo around-the-world sailboat race a day before the start of the third leg from Sydney, Australia, Jan. 18.
Twenty-five boats began the race here Aug. 30.
Luhrs, 41, of Alachua, Fla., withdrew after his 60-foot Thursday's Child was dismasted on a sea trial. At the time, he was testing a repaired rig after having been dismasted the first time just before the finish of the second leg, from Cape Town, South Africa, to Sydney.
Luhrs, who won the 1984 solo trans-Atlantic race in Thursday's Child, lost 24 hours at the start here because of a collision with another racer. He lost another three days repairing equipment damage in Cape Town, after the second leg had begun.
Australian Prime Minister Robert Hawke fired the gun from a naval patrol vessel off Sydney harbor to start the fleet on its 8,300-mile voyage to Rio de Janeiro, the longest leg of the BOC Challenge.
Once out of the harbor, the racers took advantage of a fair wind. The leaders accelerated to 10 knots and more, quickly leaving a 500-boat spectator fleet far astern.
Shortly after the start, however, American David White on the 56-foot Legend Securities turned back with both his primary and backup autopilots malfunctioning. Repairs were made, and he restarted the next morning.
Six hours into the leg, all but two boats were doing better than 10 knots, with Leg 1 winner Tuna Marine of South Africa logging 15 knots and leading the fleet as it headed south down the Tasman Sea.
Three other Class I boats (60 feet in length), Credit Agricole III, UAP and Ecureuil d'Aquitaine were exceeding 14 knots.
In Class 2 (boats up to 50 feet), Let's Go, of France, was also off to a good start, logging 14 knots and staying ahead of elapsed-time leader Airco Distributor, of the United States.
The course takes the fleet 1,100 miles south-southeast, under New Zealand. There the boats enter the Southern Ocean at 48 degrees and start the 5,000-nautical mile run for Cape Horn.
Observers are watching the fleet as it nears the turn east under New Zealand. At that point it will become apparent which boats are going to chose the more southerly course.
The farther south the course, the shorter the distance to the Horn. But a southerly track also increases the risk of encountering icebergs and headwinds.
In the first race, Philippe Jeantot took his Credit Agricole I south to 60 degrees where he ran into headwinds. Nevertheless, he won the leg with a time of just under 48 days.