Even if you leave out the America’s Cup, there’s no way you can say sailboat racing is boring these days. The fastest boats are now so powerful and so fragile, you never know what’s going to happen. Witness this year’s holiday season disaster in which Bernard Stamm and Damien Guillou were rescued off the British coast on Christmas Eve after their Open 60 Cheminees Poujoulat broke in half and sank. Stamm and Guillou, who just finished fourth in the Transat Jaques Vabre, were delivering the boat back to France and were sailing conservatively in a 45-knot gale when the hull slammed off a steep wave and cracked open just forward of its daggerboards.
Read this account here and you’ll see the rescue was quite hairy–Stamm and Guillou barely managed to scramble up a freighter’s cargo net as their boat went down. And for Stamm it was like deja vu all over again. He was rescued off the same boat during the 2011 TJV after she was holed and almost sank.
Back in October, prior to this year’s TJV, you may recall that one of the big MOD 70 trimarans, Virbac-Paprec, which was gearing up to run the race, capsized (see photo up top) during a routine dog-and-pony video shoot in fairly sedate conditions. Watch carefully and you’ll see her skipper Jean-Pierre Dick falling a long, long ways from the helm (starting at 00:36) as the boat flips over. He suffered some collapsed vertebrae in his back and was flown out by helicopter to a hospital:
And here’s what it was like inside the boat:
Earlier in the year, in June, yet another MOD 70, Spindrift, capsized during an inshore race off Dun Laoghaire, Ireland. In this video of that bit of drama, you’ll note it is Jean-Pierre Dick, ironically, who plays the role of the incredulous interviewee-witness:
This spate of trimaran accidents may spell the end of the fledgling MOD 70 class. Rumor has it two or more of the seven boats in the class are now up for sale, and it may be that running big trimarans in ocean races will look pretty dodgy to sponsors for some time to come.
But there’s still plenty of other carnage to keep track of in lightweight race boats of all description. There’s just no getting around the fact that modern hulls and rigs are now at the technological bleeding edge. In order to be competitive in top events, you have to sail a boat you cannot trust.
Thank God I’m a cruiser.
IN OTHER NEWS: The Sydney-Hobart fleet is off today and heading south. The early predictions of a record-breaking downwind sprint have come to nothing; now it’s looking like a more tactical race with big swells and maybe a gale thrown in at the end.
Today’s race start in Sydney. Photo by Daniel Forster
My old mate Geoff Hill, from the 2000 Hobart race, is sailing with Syd Fischer on Ragamuffin 100 so I’ll be keeping an eye on her. At this instant she’s in fifth place about 23 miles behind the leader.
Unfortunately, she doesn’t look anything like she used to.