Olympic medallist in Cowes collision with spectator

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The Independent Online

Double Olympic gold medallist Shirley Robertson was involved in a major collision off Cowes today after her high speed catamaran hit a spectator boat watching the iShares Cup event, which is being run for the opening three days of Cowes Week..

Her 40-foot speed machine, also sponsored by iShares, was on the first leg of the first race of the day in a good racing breeze. Within seconds there was an immediate scramble to administer first aid and rush the injured woman, Dorothy Haslam, to Newport hospital and tow the badly damaged rigid inflatable to safety.

Mark Turner, who, with business partner Dame Ellen MacArthur, organises the racing, said the condition of the injured woman was not critical, that the boat had been on the race course and had underestimated the speed which the competing yachts could achieve. "We are unable to block someone going on the racecourse," he said.

The high-intensity short races, staged at Egypt Point just off the end of Cowes Green, attracted a large crowd taking advantage of the sunshine and proving that, using the right format, sailing can be an easy to understand spectator sport. But marshalling is fraught with difficulty. Said one experienced pundit: "It was a disaster waiting to happen."

The third regatta in an iShares season of six again saw British Olympic bronze medallist Chris Draper dominating even his legendary French rival and team colleague Loick Peyron as the two-boat Oman team cashed in on a carefully organised programme of winter training in the Middle East. Draper had clocked up eight wins, three seconds and a third in 12 starts.

On the more conventional track, Charles Dunstone's 52-foot Rio, with Team New Zealand tactician Ray Davies aboard, made it two class one wins in a row, adding the Glazebrook Trophy to Saturday's Queen's Cup.

The transatlantic record was pulverised by two competing giant French trimarans yesterday, both finishing in under four days but with Pascal Bidegorry's Banque Populaire, which started two and a half hours after Franck Cammas' Groupama 3, not only being first to cross the finish line off The Lizard after three days 15 hours 25 minutes, but capping Cammas' shortlived 24-hour record with a run of 907 miles.

Yann Elies won the first leg of the Figaro singlehanded race from Lorient to La Coruna. Britain's Nigel King was 39th and Jonny Malbon 50th of the 52 starters.

Three times America's Cup winner and Olympic gold medallist Russell Coutts has been knighted following the reversal of New Zealand from the British honours system. Sir Russell is currently trialling the BMW Oracle 90-foot trimaran challenging for the America's Cup, unless a second boat is produced to line up against the radical catamaran being tested by Ernesto Bertarelli's Alinghi. He is due to take time off for the formal ceremony in Wellington on 14 August.

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