First Knight crashes out

Rescue services went to the aid of a sinking yacht and two others were forced to retire on the first night of the Round Britain and Ireland Race yesterday.

Rescue services went to the aid of a sinking yacht and two others were forced to retire on the first night of the Round Britain and Ireland Race yesterday.

Chris Mincham and Andrew Knight were 25 miles south east of Portland Bill when their 35ft John Corby-designed First Knight was in collision just after midnight with the bulk carrier Rhine Master.

First Knight was holed just above the water line, but kept afloat until a coastguard vessel came to the rescue. Pumps were placed aboard and the yacht was towed to Weymouth. Neither of the crew wasinjured.

However, Andy Brown, on the Army Sailing Association's Sigma 38 Redcoat, suffered severe bruising to his back early in the race, which took the yachts east of the Solent at Portsmouth and south along the Isle of Wight.

Redcoat came back into the Solent at the Needles and transferred Brown to an ambulance waiting at Yarmouth. At the same time, inspection revealed a loose keel bolt, so the skipper, Philip Cooper, decided to retire.

Also suffering gear damage was the 40ft Trimaran Mollymawk. The yacht had sat forlornly on its mooring off Cowes with just the stump of a broken mast as its skipper, Ross Hobson, and his team had worked feverishly last week to build and fit a replacement.

But there was no time to test the new equipment and the yacht had to put into Sandown Bay with rigging problems. Hobson has taken the yacht to Hamble to see if he can repair it himself - he is not allowed outside assistance - but the chances of restarting are no better than 50-50.

Forging ahead in the race yesterday was the biggest yacht in a fleet reduced from 16 to 13. Pascal Herold and Fabrice Arnaud, of France, were making good speed in the 85ft La Folie des Grinders in a pleasant 12-knot south-westerly. Chasing them were two Open 50s.

Also sailing double-handed are Emma Richards and Miranda Merron in Pindar, the partnership which made its name in last year's Jacques Vabre two-handed race from Le Havre to Cartagena, Colombia. Richards then won her class in June in the single-handed transatlantic race from Plymouth to Newport, Rhode Island.

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