Bol d’ Or disaster

18 Jun


The Bol d’Or Mirabaud is probably the most important inland lake regatta in the world. Started in 1939, it welcomes monohulls and multihulls each year on Lake Geneva, starting in Geneva, Switzerland and sailing the 123 kilometer (66.5 nautical miles) course from Geneva to Le Bouveret and back. There is typically upward of 500 boats entered and it’s a place where the latest high-tech foiling technology is showcased. It can be showcased because Lake Geneva is typically flat with light winds and easy sailing angles, but this most recent edition of the event was anything but. The fleet started off in typical conditions and the biggest headache was trying to avoid bumping into another yacht, but later in the day things started to change; and for the worse. An early summer squall suddenly piped up bringing with it 50 knot gusts. The entire fleet was caught off guard and many yachts were dismasted and/or sunk. This video is excellent as it shows the crew sailing along in perfect conditions, but then you start to see the black curve of the squall, the boat picking up speed and then…  well I don’t want to spoil it for you.
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This article was syndicated from Great Circle Sails Blog


  1. Bob Fleno

    I’ve seen many mains on inshore racers not even have reef points. Can’t even imagine rounding up to put one in or douse. Reducing head sail to minimum is the only way to slow it down but that introduces some steering unbalance. On an offshore boat i’d be thinking about bare pole or a drogue! While the boat is being sailed extremely well and the skipper is probably thinking/hoping that the boat will hold together until it blows through, she’s diving into the back of a waves, she survives a couple but the rig finally explodes. Interesting that mid way through they watch (out of camera view) a dis-masting on the boat’s starboard side that eventually comes into view. Kudos to the support boats!

  2. Arne Henriksen

    //Ben BloomJune 20, 2019 at 5:28 PM
    //What type of boat was that?

    According to a thread on Sailing Anarchy the boat is a Grand Surprise.

  3. Ken

    Juste to answer Boba’s comment… I was in it. The race, not the video, and on a similar boat to the Surprise you see there. The planned wind on the forecast was 25 to 35 kts, and we got over 60 kts in the middle of the lake. In 35 kts, we can handle the boat with our small spinnaker. Obviously not in 60.
    It’s easy to criticise other sailors from a couch once something has gone wrong. It’s much harder to predict accurately what will happen and act accordingly…
    And this storm lasted over an hour, not 15 minutes as they usually do. Again, not as forecasted. And I’m not blaming the met office, these things are really hard to predict.
    The rescue crews were the real heroes of the race, keeping everybody safe with over 40 dismastings and at least 12 capsized or sunk boats. So a big thank you to them.

  4. Boba

    This is an excellent example where no one has even been thinking of reefing, where there was so evident of doing so. Spinaker has been brought back in the last second. Others in the background has disappeared doing the same, – expecting that the equipment is going to cope with the condition.

    It is common on lakes with high altitudes where mixture of cold and hot air are more quick to do the change. Experience gathered from Lake Burley Griffin (Canberra) AU, where whole lake around are mountains. It comes in a minute e.g. there is not much time to react.
    Bass Strait passage (between Australian continent and Tasmania) is another example, where sky could be clear and you cannot see even one single cloud. It comes from nowhere in gust of 30-40 kn and all is done in 15 min and gone. If you are not prepared with already set your reefing on both sails, you will find yourself in a very devastated situation, in the middle of the ocean, miles from someone to help.

    The only help in these waters (I would say everywhere) really, is listening to your preferred weather channel and take the action quickly and seriously.



  5. Randy Pace

    Unbelievable, the amount of pressure the rigging withstood! I would guess at one point 30+ knots of speed! Hope everyone is safe! That’s a ride no one will ever forget! Thanks for sharing! I enjoy this blog!

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