Sailing: Winds wreak havoc at Cowes

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It was no day for the faint-hearted as Skandia Life Cowes Week battened down yesterday in preparation for 50-mile-an-hour winds. Even so, 17 yachts were dismasted and three broke their booms, two sinkings were reported - an Etchells and a Dragon - sails were shredded and a variety of limbs were wrenched as organisers brought races to an early finish and cancelled many of the day boat classes which had not started. Nearly 600 of the 850 due to race retired.

A woman crewmember was lifted out of the water by a rescue helicopter off Beaulieu and returned to Cowes while St Mary's Hospital at Newport reported an increase in admissions to accident and emergency but no serious injuries. There was the usual crop of encounters with the rocks off Cowes and Gurnard Ledge. Greg Peck's Camp Freddie hit the rocks hard and had to be craned ashore; others, like Stephen Fein's Full Pelt, merely having a brush with the bricks and scoring the bulb at the bottom of the keel. Swift repairs were undertaken by Jo Richards to allow the boat to race today.

The sailmakers were also busy, with a canvas-bearing queue outside Johnny McWilliam's loft at Cowes Yacht Haven. On the water, Chris Law reported 43 knots over the deck on Mike Slade's maxi Longabarda and Louise Matthews reported one for each foot on the 46-foot Essex Girl. Both had the speedo nudging 20 knots, but Longabarda had to pull out when a shackle for the mainsail sheet exploded under the load.

Nicorette was the only maxi to finish; the class one Bathsheba Trophy went to Glynn Williams's Wolf, and the Sportsboat class was won by the all-girl crew on Sea Cups, Cordelia Eglin.

Three of the dismastings were in the Melges 24 class, and the majority of the 32 retired, leaving David Clarke to win the class, with Mike Lennon second and David Bedford's third placing in Glenfiddich 1 enough to keep him in first position overall.

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