by Lindsey Bell
Perth 2011 ISAF Sailing World Championships Day 11.
Iain Percy and Andrew Simpson, Star class - ISAF Sailing World Championships Perth 2011
Iain Percy and Andrew Simpson’s hopes of retaining their World Championship crown took a big hit when Percy’s back gave out when they were in a strong position in the first race of the day for the Star fleet.
The 2008 Olympic gold medallists, overnight leaders with a 12 point margin heading into the day, were third in the race when injury hit.
'Iain was in tears, crying, and really in a bad way,' said Simpson of his Skandia Team GBR teammate and best friend.
'I haven’t actually ever seen him that bad before. It’s not very nice when you see a grown man cry and he was in absolute agony. We tried to make the plan to try and literally just get around the course and we had a good lead on fourth place – the three boats at the front were making a nice separation.
'Then somehow, with Iain basically in a paralysed way down the run, we got a yellow flag which was our second one of the regatta,' Simpson continued. 'It was very surprising, very frustrating and obviously we had to pull out of the race. There was nothing more we could do and Iain couldn’t sail the next race.'
With the Star class scheduled to have a layday on Wednesday (14 December) Percy will undergo physio treatment and the team will decide over the next 24 hours whether he will be in a position to continue the regatta.
'I’ll take Iain’s health over anything, any event,' said Simpson. 'Getting him in good shape is the most important thing. Not being able to defend the world title would be very frustrating because we were in a very, very strong position to do it after four and a half races. That’s life.
'Obviously next year’s the big one for us and we need to get Iain down in the physio room and get him fixed up.'
The day began with new that Skandia Team GBR's Stevie Morrison and Ben Rhodes had been forced to retire from the 49er event following a rib strain to Rhodes.
RYA Olympic Manager Stephen Park reflected on a challenging event so far for Skandia Team GBR, but was confident his charges would hold their own over the remainder of the regatta.
'It’s unfortunate that we’ve had three independent, unrelated challenges to contend with so far at this regatta what with dealing with the causes and fallout of Ben Ainslie’s incident, Ben Rhodes’ injury which is one of those things that could happen to anyone at any time, and now the issue with Iain’s back when he and Bart were in a commanding position in the Star class.
'It’s disappointing for those guys who’ve been working so hard towards this regatta, and certainly is not how we’d hoped the regatta would unfold, but it’s important to keep these things in perspective. Although World Championship titles are important, our eyes are on the bigger prize of the Olympics in Weymouth in 2012.
Skandia Team GBR website