Matthew Sheahan reports from the Swan 56 Noonmark VI in Sardinia where a lively start to the week almost ended in tradegy

In a split second Arek Likus was launched from the side deck of the Swan 55 Jemm and into the water during a spinnaker drop on the breezy downwind leg.

In winds of over 30 knots the fleet were enjoying sleighride conditions but at speeds well into double figures, Arek was soon a long way behind the boat as his teamates struggled to turn their boat around and head back to pick him up.

Unfortunately, during the process of turning around the crew lost sight of Arek as they headed back to where they thought he was. “I saw the boat coming back but they couldn’t see me and motored straight past and carried on upwind,” said Arek.

Unaware of the drama ahead, we aboard Noonmark were bowling along at speeds of between 12-15 knots when several of our crew spotted someone floating in the water as we shot past. No other boat was in the vicinity and for a moment we were confused as to why someone would be in the water and not waving at us.

We immediately dropped our kite, turned the boat around and motored back to Arek who, as it turned out, had been in the water for 45 minutes. “I’ve no idea how long I was in the water”, said a shaken but otherwise OK Arek as we pulled him out. “Many boats passed by but they didn’t see me,” he continued. Elsewhere on the course the boisterous conditions had taken their toll. Lady in Red the Swan 68 lost her mast as the spinnaker pole ripped off its track and broke the lower spreader just as they went into a gybe. The French Swan 45 Rusalka lost her rudder and several other boats suffered steering problems, blown out sails and broken halyards.

Among the most notable gear failures was aboard Aspiration a Swan 86 that broke its spinnaker halyard sheave allowing the halyard to slice down through the front of the carbon fibre mast, only stopping when it reached the top spreader.

Among the finishers in this dramatic opening to the week long event, Jacobite won class D and Aera won class C. In class A Chippewa won, with Noonmark VI winning class B as well as taking the overall prize for the day.