Dismastings, sinkings, collisions - drama on the high seas as the Cowes fleet bows to force 7 gusts

Just when it was looking like it would be a light Skandia Cowes Week to the end things are getting a little more exciting out there. With steady force five to six wind, gusting to force seven at times, there’s been a high rate of attrition among the fleet, with boats in the Black Group suffering the most damage.

Denis Steele’s class IRC9 UFO27Uforiawas dismasted off Newtown earlier today, while in the IRC7 class Philip Owen’s J-24Zaphodwas capsized. There were also reports of Peter Spink’s ISC SonarViscounttaking on water and sinking off South Bramble bank. A helicopter and two lifeboats were seen in the area, presumably to assist the Sonar, the crew of which is believed to be in the water. An X One-Design is on the beach at Gurnard Ledge, and in a separate incident, two people have been spotted in the water at Lepe mark. At least a couple of RS K6s have been seen with broken rudders, and the Squib fleet seems particularly badly hit, with several collisions, a broken mast, and another unidentified Squib in difficulty near Clipper mark. A Redwing has also been reported as being in difficulty near the Royal Southern mark, and a red flare has been spotted in the western Solent. The Committee boat has had to step in as salvage tug and was seen towing a yacht with a sail wrapped around her propellor, among others. “At least half a dozen have been towed in.” said Sue Richards from the starting platform.

Dark menacing clouds rolling in over the Solent have brought unpredictable and gusty conditions, adding to the chaos. Under the circumstances it is not surprising that many boats are opting for jibs in lieu of spinnakers, while a few are running without mainsails.

In the White Group, the bigger boats are clearly revelling in the conditions. Clay Deutsch’s big Swan 68Chippewacame into her own with a provisional second in IRC1 behind Richard Matthews’Flirt.

The wind is expected to abate later with force four winds forecast for tonight’s fireworks display.