Ellen MacArthur's round-the-world record attempt ended in disaster when Kingfisher 2's mast broke on Sunday night.
Kingfisher 2 is limping to Perth under jury rig
The giant catamaran was sailing in moderate 25-30 knot winds about 100 miles south east of the Kerguelen Islands in the southern Indian Ocean when the mast suddenly crashed down at 2222 GMT.
The 39m carbon mast missed the three crew who were on board at the time, and Kingfisher 2 is now limping towards Perth, 2000 miles to the east, under jury rig.
"I was in the nav station when I heard an almighty crunching and grinding sound," said MacArthur.
I feel empty and sad but so relieved that no-one was hurt
"It felt like we had hit something as the boat slowed so quickly but when I got on deck and looked up the rig had gone over the side - it is the last thing you want to see.
"Everyone is okay. We are very lucky. If we had been doing a manoeuvre or changing watch systems it could have been a different story.
"It's pretty frightening to see your world fall over the side.
"To watch all that work drift away was so painful."
The mast broke in two places and fell forward, puncturing a small hole in the port hull.
The sails and rigging were cut away and by 0230 GMT repairs were made and a jury rig was set up using the boom.
The look on the guys' faces just says it all - total doom and gloom, just silence
Watch leader Neal McDonald
Kingfisher 2 is making between 7 and 10 knots towards Perth after deciding that the facilities on the nearby Kerguelen Islands were inadequate.
"The look on the guys' faces just says it all - total doom and gloom, just silence," said crew member Neal McDonald.
"It's the end of a huge attempt that could have been so successful.
"Things were really starting to look good for us."
Kingfisher 2 was on day 26 of the attempt, with 15,000 miles left to sail.
She was 332 miles and about 20 hours ahead of the existing record of 64 days, set by Frenchman Bruno Peyron in May last year.
And the team had closed the gap on record rival Geronimo, skippered by Olivier de Kersauson, to two days.
The Jules Verne record for sailing non-stop around the world is one of sailing's toughest challenges.
Eight out of 12 record attempts have failed since the first bid in 1993.
Peyron set his record of 64 days, 8 hours, 37 minutes and 24 seconds in Orange in May 2002.