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Racing yacht crashes into tanker at Cowes


A crew member of a 33-foot yacht was rushed to the Isle of Wight’s Newport hospital after the yacht on which he was racing, the Irish-registered 33-foot Atalanta, was in collision with the LPG tanker Hanne Knutsen in the Solent.

He suffered a gash to the head when the yacht was dismasted on the first day of Cowes Week, was taken ashore and then to hospital, where he was being thoroughly checked. The yacht is owned by Roly Wilson, but the man injured was not named.

A blizzard of competition on the water saw the 875 entries for AAM Cowes Week start their campaigns today, all the classes taking part in the Olympic test event in Weymouth on the water and, in Lisbon, the charge for the 34th America’s Cup in 2013 started with the debut event for the 45-foot wing-powered catamarans.

Among the Cowes contingent, and the main reason why entries are up this year, are a record 145 X One Designs, designed by Morgan Giles in 1911, which have entered to celebrate the class’s centenary. Steve and Peter Lawrence plus Paddy Smart took Catherine to victory.

The main trophy of the day, the Queen’s Cup, went to the 52-foot Bob, with Tony Hayward still listed as a part owner. The former BP chief ran into a storm of criticism after being pictured taking part in a race during the height of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

They X boats sent out of harm’s way to play off the mainland shore yesterday, but there should be fun to burn when they squabble for space on the start line off the Royal Yacht Squadron from Tuesday. Princess Anne is scheduled to start them on Thursday.

At the other end of the spectrum, the Extreme Sailing Series is running the fifth of its world-wide series, the 40-foot catamarans screaming up and down the beach off Egypt Point.

This is meant to be a high-wire, heart-in-mouth spectacle which seems to be in head-to-head competition with what has been called the America’s Cup World Series. In turn, that seems to be a derivative of an attempt to establish the World Sailing League, in bigger multihulls, and involving both Russell Coutts, now effectively the boss of Oracle’s America’s Cup defence in San Francisco, and Paul Cayard, now ceo of the Swedish challenger of record, Artemis.

After claims of a high-octane revolution, the first ever race was abandoned before the end of the first leg, barely five minutes into the new era. It was a case of painted boats on a painted sea, but, despite being designed to race in anything over three knots of wind, there was not enough puff.

First casualty came in the practice race when Oracle’s Simon Daubney, a long-time member of Russell Coutts’ team, broke a bone in his left hand. These boats could easily cause considerable in jury.

The second attempt was completed, though the television helicopters had to be grounded because of fog. Cascais should produce more excitement before the week is out, though wins and losses have no bearing on the America’s Cup.

So, first blood went to Terry Hutchinson for Artemis from a last gasp Loick Peyron on Energy and the man Hutchinson just loves to beat, Dean Barker on Emirates Team New Zealand. And Jimmy Spithill, in the second of the Oracle boats, won the second race from Barker. The second event is in Plymouth in September.

In Weymouth, Ben Ainslie, on a mission to win a fourth consecutive gold and fifth Olympic medal was pipped into second place by Deniss Karpak of Estonia in his opening race. Iain Percy and Andrew Simpson were sixth in the first race for the Star.

In Cowes, Pierre Pennec at the helm of Groupe Edmond de Rothschild held the lead at the end of some vigorous Extreme 40 racing.

The four British competitors in the Figaro singlehanded race, who start the second leg from Ouistreham, near Caen, tomorrow, face what is expected to be a 470-mile upwind slog in up to 40 knots to Dun Laoghaire, near Dublin.

Clipper Race competitor Russell Sandbach, 49, was in hospital in Vigo last night (Satuarday) after suffering a dislocated knee and broken leg on Geraldton, W.Australia.