The 2011 Lipton Cup was sailed in true Port Philip conditions, from 10 knot North Easterly, through to 30 knot South Westerly on Saturday. Mix this with blinding rain that persisted all day, and you have conditions that test the best of us. Fortunately the weather improved on the Sunday however most of the fleet stayed on shore, as the previous day was enough.
Simon Grain and Lisa Simonov won the regatta with 4 straight wins, their boat Make My Jay, was quick, well sailed and when required picked shifts that pulled them up through the fleet to win yet another race.
There was another event that took place that day that made me feel 1, glad that our crew competed (as we only decided to sail the previous day) and 2, that I sailed such a great boat as a J24.
In the third race the wind had turned to the South west and kicked in at recorded 30 knots. After a screaming downwind run with the spinnakers Simon and I rounded the bottom mark together, back on the wind, we sailed lower and both boats were about ten boat lengths apart on port tack with Simon slightly astern and to windward.
My crew alerted me that there was a boat from another division that was on starboard and hardly moving, we bore away and as we passed astern we could see that the boat was a mess with her headsail half furled and two crew occupied with something going on in the open cockpit. The boat’s crew shouted “we have a man overboard”, which sent a shock right through the whole of our crew, we replied “where”, one pointed directly down wind. Through the blinding rain we could just see a tiny black shape about 200 meters away.
Jack on the bow tripped the jib, and kept his eyes firmly on the MOB, whilst Matt eased the vang and Michael readied the life ring, the MOB was waving his arm and as we approached we assured him and asked him to keep calm.
Our first pass was too quick and we felt that the wind was too strong to throw the life ring as it would never have made it. Our second pass, much slower allowed the MOB to swim to the windward side of the J where it took all three of my crew to get him on board.
Dominic was ash white, shaking and exhausted, we put him down in the cabin where Jack kept a eye on him. It was only then that I looked around to see that through the rain the only other boat I could see was the stricken yacht, no one else was in sight.
The stricken yacht had managed to bare away and was able to run down wind some distance away, we both headed to the nearest harbour at RYCV.
Dominic advised us that there was a injured crew on the other yacht and that the events that caused his injury had caused his fall from the boat.
I estimate that Dominic would have been in the water for a minimum of ten to fifteen minutes, we were concerned that he might be effected by shock so I got Jack to keep eye on his condition all the whole way home.
J24’s are great to sail in tight windy conditions, their low free board made getting Dominic on board much easier, and the speed in which we could do a second pass, took some of the panic out of the situation. Had we been in a much bigger boat, this MOB rescue would have been much harder and taken a lot longer, of that I am sure.
When we entered to harbour, the stricken yacht managed to get assistance from a rescue boat who rushed the injured crew to a waiting ambulance.
After we had docked we were met by the crew of the other yacht who thanked us and advised us that they could never have been able to pick up Dominic.
Lessons learnt were, 1: the stricken yacht should have sent off a flare. 2: radioed for assistanc.e 3: waved their arms to alert us or others. However, there were only two of them and one was preoccupied looking after the third injured crew. Makes sailing a four man keelboat hard in 30 knots single handed.
On reflection, my crew and I agreed that we had all had a rewarding and special day, as no one else knew Dominic was out there until we reported what had happened when we came ashore. We later learnt that the race was shortened due to the wind strength and reduced vision of 100 meters.
Special thanks to Jack Crawford, Matt Weston and Michael Lewenhagen, crew of Bruschetta VI.
Note from Simon Grain. Hugo’s actions quite probably saved Dominic’s life on Saturday. The visibility was terrible with heavy driving rain, rising seas and lots of spray making looking to windward almost impossible and painful. This might have meant that no other boat would have seen him in the water. This is a very sobering thought, as losing a crew member overboard can happen in the blink of an eye to any of us on the water in these conditions. Make sure you practice your man overboard retrieval in all kinds of weather. Hugo was awarded redress and scored an equal first place in this race and came second overall in the Lipton Cup.