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Medical Emergency in BT Challenge

by BT Challenge Media on 13 Mar 2001
Medical Emergency: VERITAS heads into NSW port with two injured by rogue wave.

The yacht has been forced to return to the Australian mainland after two crew members were injured by huge seas.

Charles Smith and Robert Brooke were both hurt when the wave hit the boat as the wind reached gale force in the Bass Strait.

Smith, 31, from East Sheen, in London, has a fractured left femur, a compound fracture of one ankle and his other ankle is dislocated.

Brooke, 61, from Surrey, has had the top of his little finger on his left hand sliced off and has broken a finger in his right hand.

Both were immediately given medical attention from on-board medic Stephen Fillery and an urgent message was sent back to Race
Headquarters in Southampton asking them to contact the Australian coastguard.

The inclement weather and dark made it impossible for an air evacuation to take place so the yacht was forced to head towards Eden, on
the New South Wales coastline.

The fleet had encountered the south westerly gale conditions as they entered the Bass Strait, leaving behind the shelter of the Australian

Winds were forecast to gust up to 45 knots and combined with the swell which funnels through the Bass Strait the seas became extremely

Race Headquarters manager John Keating said, “The weather funnelling through the Bass Strait cooks up some very nasty waves and this
was a big breaking wave.

“When that happens it is like having several tons of water dropped over you.”

The yacht was in constant communication with the Australian Flying Doctor Service who were reported to be happy with the way the two
crew volunteers were being treated.

The pair were being given oral fluids and VERITAS was expected to reach Eden at midnight GMT (11am local time) where they are both
going to be taken off and transferred to hospital. According to racing rules, the yacht can still compete with a crew of 16.

The huge wave hit the boat on the starboard quarter when it was 270 miles out from Sydney and about 70 miles from the Australian coast.

The force of the water also washed the B-Sat communications dome from the yacht and bent three stanchions.

The damage has not affected the vital primary equipment of the C-Sat and Mobiq Satellite (radio) facilities and the yacht is able to navigate
with the GPS system and remain in contact with Race Headquarters.

No-one else on board was hurt.

Smith, whose girlfriend Deborah Lloyd, 27, is the medic on board Olympic Group, decided to apply to join the Challenge after closely
following the media coverage of the last Race.

He said before the Race, “I hope to learn a lot about myself under extreme pressure and look forward to the challenge and competition
involved in such an event.”

Brooke said he saw the Race as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

The fleet had sailed into the first gale of this Southern Ocean leg just hours before the accident happened.

Earlier in the day leg leaders Compaq had sent a message back to Race Headquarters saying they had been hit by the biggest breaking
wave of the Race so far.

They too are checking their dome for damage.

For continuing reports go to

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