Drama struck on the opening day of the 2013 Auckland Regatta today when the high-profile trimaran Team Vodafone Sailing was dismasted while sailing in light conditions.
The mast on the high-performance record-setting multihull came down in light winds during the third race of the regatta. According to eye witnesses, the 18m catamaran came off the startline in good order and less than a minute later the 30m rig slowly fell over the side.
'The forestay appeared to break and the mast went over the side,' said Gonzalo Tome, who was driving a chase boat close to the action. 'Nobody was hurt. The crew first recovered the mainsail and then put flotation on the mast. The mast and boat were both being towed back to Auckland.
Team Vodafone Sailing is owned by Auckland yachtsman Simon Hull and has won a string of races in New Zealand. Hull could not be reached for comment shortly after the incident.
Light and shifty conditions tested competitors’ ability to find the breeze and coax boatspeed out of every lift in pressure in the opening day of the 2013 Auckland Regatta.
Some of the closest racing of the regatta was in the smallest yachts competing. The Elliott 5.9s are enjoying a revival, which has seen some leading yachtsmen attracted to the class, which was first introduced as a youth training yacht 30 years ago.
The class are using the regatta as their national championships and competition was keen through the opening day's five races. Despite the light, shifty conditions, the fleet was crossing the finish line with the top five to seven boats often within a minute of each other.
'Unbelievable racing,' was how Mike Sanderson described it. Sanderson, who has won the Volvo Ocean Race and raced in grand prix events around the world at the highest level, is a recent convert to the class. 'The racing is incredibly close,' he said.
TeamVodafoneSailing - Day 1, Auckland Regatta 2013 - Ivor Wilkins
Conditions today were light and shifty. It was a bit challenging, but it was the same for everybody. A couple went against us and a couple went our way.' At the end of the first day, Sanderson's Stratis-Icebreaker was lying fourth in the class behind Simon Manning's The Blurr, Chris Maddock's Animal Crackers and Dave Cochran's Zoot Allures.
The Auckland Regatta has attracted 85 entries in 11 divisions. Jointly run by the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron and Bucklands Beach Yacht Club, the regatta takes place over three days, finishing on Sunday.
Team Vodafone Sailing's mishap took place in the open multihull division, which was dominated by America's Cup veteran Mike Drummond in the former Extreme 40 catamaran, XL. Drummond and his crew notched up three firsts and a second to end a satisfying opening day.
Other consistent performers were Chris Hornell's Kia Kaha with two firsts and two seconds in Division A while Greer Houston's Dirty Deeds finished with thee firsts and two seconds in the hotly contested 8.5 multihull division.
In the smaller classes, the SR 26, Motorboat (Damon Jolliffe) achieved a perfect result of three wins in three starts in Division D, as did Phil Yuill's Max Headroom in the Farr 1020 Division.
The Auckland Regatta is jointly run by the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron and Bucklands Beach Yacht Club. Eighty five yachts in 11 divisions are competing in the regatta, which continues tomorrow and finishes on Sunday.