Serious damage to Etchells during practice race yesterday dashes hopes of top contender at Etchells worlds 25/6/07

Arbitrator, the Etchells helmed by Graham Bailey with Stephen Bailey and David Heritage crewing, was seriously damaged in a port/starboard collision with GBR987 Bedrock during yesterday’s Etchells World championship practice race.

The damage to Arbitrator was severe and the boat was initially feared to be in danger of sinking. Graham Bailey takes up the story: “The incident happened in the pre-start about three minutes before the gun. We were on starboard and we realised that the port tack boat hadn’t seen us so we began to tack to avoid them. The other boat tried to bear away round the back of us but it was too late and they simply accelerated into us, hitting us and then ripping through the aft quarter. The immediate call was for lifejackets as the boat was rapidly filling but fortunately the damage was all in the aft tank and the bulkhead held.

“The jury came over the radio as we were towing in to give us permission for the boat to be hauled straight way. It’s now in the shop and work has already started but there’s very little chance we’ll be able to sail the first race, although if anyone can do it H can [David “H” Heritage, the Cowes based Etchells builder, who is also sailing on Arbitrator]. Obviously the Jury can’t make a final decision until we know for sure whether we can race, so now it’s just a case of getting the boat dry and the work done as quickly as possible.”

For the rest of the fleet racing got underway on time at 1300 in 14-16 knots from the south with grey skies and rain. The crews who favoured the centre left came out on top and by the first mark Andy Beadsworth sailing GBR1361 Dawn Raid with Oscar Strugstad and Simon Fry had a nice little lead and were never seriously challenged for the rest of the race.

Graham Bailey’s wife Julia, a very successful Dragon sailor who only joined the Etchells fleet a couple of months ago when she teamed up with Neil Payne and Jon Mortimer aboard GBR1329 Stampede, shocked many fleet regulars by popping out at the first mark in the front of the pack. With only a matter of weeks to prepare Julia and her team have been playing catch up as they learn how the get the best out of the boat, but today they clearly had speed and height to match the best of them. By the leeward mark Julia had her name firmly on second place and she had no intention of letting anyone past her.

With the wind backing towards 155 degrees and the weather deteriorating the race committee elected to shorten at the end of the second beat and Julia took a comfortable second place from Tom Hughes sailing USA1306 Wiki Wiki 3 with Ron Rosenberg and Steve Hales. Australia’s Jervis Tilly, crewed by Cian O’Carroll and Pete Tindale aboard AUS1250 Bushfire took fourth with David Bedford, James Howells and Phil Lawrence aboard GBR1332 Gelert fifth.

Nils Razmilovic was in the leading pack during the early stages of the race but elected to pull out before the finish while brother Ante did not compete at all.

The forecast for today’s first race is for more rain and 15-18 knots of wind.