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Ultra 30 Grand Prix - Guernsey Day 1

by Sue Warden-Owen 3 Sep 1999 21:45 BST


With racing postponed until late afternoon, the Hoya Vision Care Ultra 30 Grand Prix final Regatta finally saw the six-boat fleet in action after several hours of frustration, whilst crews waited for the breeze to fill in. Race 1, with a North-easterly force 3 breeze, saw Team David Mclean, skippered by 21 year old Rob Greenhalgh, make an clear start and maintain an excellent lead through to the finish.

During race 1, United Airlines, incurred a 360° penalty turn which skipper Mark Rushall chose to take immediately, when they failed to give way to Team Gul, skippered by newcomer Jim Hunt. Eddie Warden Owen, sailing his new Team Hoya Ultra 30 made an encouraging start to the final round of the 1999 Series securing a second place. Defending Champion and two-time winner of the Series, Russell Peters aboard DBS finished 3rd, a result in contrast to his previous championship class and consistency which has been demonstrated at previous Regattas this season.

Race 2 then witnessed a major incident between DBS and Star Alliance, skippered by Kevin Sproul as they approached the windward mark twenty minutes into the 30-minute race. Russell Peters was on port coming into the mark, and Star Alliance was on the starboard layline with another boat, Team Gul, in front of them. After the incident both skippers gave their view of events and needless to say there were strong differences of opinion.

Kevin Sproul, skipper of Star Alliance commented, "It was a bit of a blur so I never saw exactly what happened. Russell was on the port layline. We were on the starboard layline and there was another boat in front of us. Russell realised he wasn't going to clear the other boat, and there was no gap between. He tried, I think, to go between and then realised he wasn't going to make it and tried to bear away. He was virtually on a run as he went passed us and the two racks hit each other. It was a hell of a bang and I was really worried we might of hurt somebody on the other boat." As might be expected in such a big collision there was a fair bit of damage to Sproul's boat. "We've got a couple of broken welds on the rack, we've got a massive ding in the main structure; it's pulled away from the boat so we're going to get it lifted out and loosen the rig off and see if we can sort it out for tomorrow."

For Sproul, a five-year veteran of the Ultra 30 circuit it was the biggest collision he had ever experienced. "Anything bigger and somebody might be dead. That was as big a collision as you're ever going to get without somebody being hurt and it's certainly the biggest collision I've ever been in whilst I've been sailing. Two boats going in opposite directions, closing speeds of about 20 knots and they weigh nearly two tonnes with the crew on board, so it's a hell of a lot of load when they hit."

Potentially the collision could affect the outcome of the whole Series with Peters potentially losing his crown if he is unable to sail tomorrow. "It makes a massive difference. I don't know what is going to happen to Russell because I think it was a really dangerous manoeuvre that he did and he was fairly lucky that none of his crew were hurt. It puts his overall lead in jeopardy but it also doesn't do us any favours."

Peters of course had another story to sell. "We tried to get through a gap which I realised wasn't there and bailed out of it a bit too late and hit an oncoming boat, actually to try and make the collision less than the other was going to be, which was an error of judgement. In tight racing, these things are going to happen. It's actually the first time that a boat has been hit and damaged as badly as we've been damaged, which is very unfortunate."

Unlike Sproul, Peters did not see it as such a major collision. "To be honest, I've had bigger. It is the one that has caused the most damage that I've ever seen in Ultra racing." There was however major damage to DBS. Although it later transpired that his boat might be repairable, his initial reaction was somewhat despairing. "I think we have very little chance of getting the boat ready by tomorrow. The outriggers take a lot of load, they take the crew, they take the rig tension - we'll need a welder who might work overnight."

Peters was similarly concerned about his Series position, though unlike Sproul he did not expect any action from the Jury. "I think Team Gul closed the door a bit, but he wasn 't the boat that we hit so I find it very hard to protest him, but he was actually the guy that made the gap too close and I had no room to get through. My biggest concern was injuries. There was blood on somebody but nothing too bad at all. I think egos and boats are the only thing that have been hurt, luckily enough."

The incident not surprisingly resulted in the retirement of DBS, whilst the Race Committee awarded a 4th place to Star Alliance who were unable to finish the Race. Race 3 saw the four remaining yachts compete in increased winds, up to 12 knots, with a confident Rob Greenhalgh and his young crew aboard Team David Mclean claiming their third 1st place victory of the day.

This is the fourth year that Hoya Vision Care has been involved in the Ultra 30 Circuit, which is supported by BBC Grandstand. Designed as a spectator sport, the Series remains the only televised race circuit on the BBC, a testament to the entertainment value and excitement this class offers. Leading international yachtsman take part including national and world champions and past and future Olympic contenders, many of whom have competed in the toughest races in the world.

Results to date:

BOAT/SKIPPER       R1  R2  R3   Points
Rob Greenhalgh      1   1   1    18
Eddie Warden Owen   2   2   3    14
Mark Rushall        5   3=  2    11
Kevin Sproul        4   3= dns   10.5
Jim Hunt            6   4   4     7
Russell Peters      3  dnf dns    6

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