Andi Robertson YACHTS

Yachts & Yachting|May 2020

Andi Robertson YACHTS
A major collision saw a J Class race brought to a dramatic close before it had even started – within minutes, the footage was online for the world to see

It was at approximately one minute and 40 seconds before the start of the first J Class race at the Superyacht Challenge Antigua that Svea and Topaz collided. Unfortunately, as happens these days, very scary footage was posted on social media before the boats had docked

Without any comparison at all it was the scariest crash I have witnessed in over 40 years of watching yacht racing. The fault was unfortunately with port tacker Svea, whose afterguard appeared to lose concentration on what was happening directly in front of them, possibly as they watched Velsheda below and to leeward of them.

When they tried to take avoiding action to miss Topaz it was too late. Bear in mind it can take many seconds for a 180-tonne, 140ft J-Class to respond – more of course if the rudder is fully loaded.

The sheer momentum of Svea carried her bow high up and over the quarter deck of Topaz. It ripped the runner winch out of the deck and as the two boats sailed away from each other, the runner tail caught in the standing rigging of Svea before landing on and whiplashing down the deck. The tail appeared to take one Svea crewmember off the deck. The most serious injury was to Germany’s 2000 Olympic silver medallist Gunnar Bahr of North Sails. Bahr sustained multiple broken ribs and is recovering in hospital in Germany as I write this two weeks later.

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May 2020