Eric Boothe, bowman for skipper Eric Angel, sets the spinnaker pole during Group A racing..

Eric Boothe, bowman for skipper Eric Angel, sets the spinnaker pole during Group A racing..

Electrifying match racing

Sailors struck by lightning at King Edward VII Gold Cup

Thursday October 12th 2006, Author: Sean McNeill, Location: United States
The King Edward VII Gold Cup commenced today in varying conditions on Hamilton Harbour, but it’s safe to say that never in the previous 57 editions has it experienced a morning quite like today.

The event is in its preliminary round robin stages. In Group A Sweden’s Björn Hansen and Brian Angel of the U.S. dashed out to 2-0 records before racing for the group was prematurely halted around 11:30 a.m.

Group B took to the water at 1:30 p.m. and completed five flights. Frenchman Mathieu Richard and Ian Williams of Great Britain seem assured of advancing to Friday’s Quarterfinal Round. Both skippers went 4-1 in racing with just two flights remaining to complete the group.

“Four-and-one is a good result,” said Richard, who placed sixth last year. “I think we might be into the quarterfinals, but we have two matches tomorrow.”

Group A’s racing was suspended when a squall pushed through that raised the hairs on the back of necks and sent three sailors and an umpire to a doctor for check-ups. The squall produced heavy rains and a bolt of lightning that struck three race boats.

One boat, Peppercorn, saw its masthead windex blown off and a hole put in the bow when the lightning presumably traveled down the forestay and into the water through the hull. It was as if someone took a marlinspike and punched through the hull from the inside out.

“We had quite a surprise today when we were struck by lightning,” said reigning event champion James Spithill (Group A, 1-1) of Australia, who had just switched into Peppercorn. “It blew up the maststep. It smelled a bit like a sauna. I’ve never had that happen.”

The sailors who went to the doctor are Karl Anderson and Mark Ivey (both crew for Chris Law) and Eric Boothe (bowman for Brian Angel), all three Americans. The umpire was David Pelling of Canada. According to attending physician Dr. Stephen Sherwin, none was seriously injured.

“They were treated for diffuse electrical shock,” said Sherwin. “All had a thorough cardiovascular and neurological exam. They suffered from mild superficial burn and muscle spasms. Thankfully, nobody had entry or exit wounds, which could have indicated deep tissue burn injury.”

Ivey described what happened: “We had just changed boats after the (James) Spithill race and it began to downpour. We went below and were holding out. Then we heard a huge bang and sparks came out of the mast step. I was sitting on the partners and it shot through me and out my feet. I felt real weak and crawled out of the cabin and laid on the cockpit sole for awhile as it was pouring rain.”

Boothe is living proof that lightning can strike twice. He was competing in a collegiate regatta in 1999 when lightning blew out the mast step of the FJ dinghy he was sailing. He wasn’t hurt in that incident, but he was a bit woozy today. His ear was next to the mast when the bolt hit. “I kind of had to sit down,” Boothe said. “I was standing on the bow looking aft at the wind and had to take a seat.”

Pelling was holding onto a metal steering wheel when the lightning struck. “I felt a tingling up through my arms,” he said. “It made me jump off the wheel.”

Tomorrow’s schedule calls for Group B to complete its two flights in the morning and then Group A to finish its round robin afterwards. The quarterfinals are slated for Friday, the semifinals on Saturday and the Final on Sunday.

Group A Standings
(After 2 of 7 scheduled flights)
1. Brian Angel (USA) King Harbor Match Race, 2-0
(Crew: Eric Boothe, Payson Infelise, David Levy)
T. Bjorn Hansen (SWE) Team, 2-0
(Crew: Martin Angsell, Pontus Meijer, Johan Tempelman)
3. Scott Dickson (NZL) Dickson Racing Team, 1-1
(Crew: Whitlock Batchelor, John Hayes, Mark Strube)
T. Chris Law (GBR) The Outlaws, 1-1
(Crew: Karl Anderson, Mark Ivey, Scott Norris)
T. Staffan Lindberg (FIN) Alandia Sailing Team, 1-1
(Crew: Nils Bjerkas, Robert Skarp, Carl-Johan Uckelstam)
T. James Spithill (AUS) Luna Rossa Challenge, 1-1
(Crew: Magnus Augustson, Torben Grael, Christian Kamp)
7. Sandy Hayes (USA), 0-2
(Crew: Peter Bromby, Kim Hapgood, Cindy Olsen)
T. Jon Singsen (USA), 0-2
(Crew: Ben Bardwell, Kevin Horsfield, Nik Smale)

Group B Standings
(After 5 of 7 scheduled flights)
1. Mathieu Richard (FRA) Saba Sailing Team, 4-1
(Crew: Greg Evrard, Olivier Herledant, Yannick Simon)
T. Ian Williams (GBR) Williams Sail Racing, 4-1
(Crew: Bill Hardesty, Gerry Mitchell, Mark Nichols)
3. Alvaro Marinho (POR), 3-2
(Crew: Diogo Barros, Antonio Fontes, Miguel Nunes)
4. Eric Monnin (SUI) Team Monnin, 3-2
(Crew: Simon Brugger, Fabien Froesch, Alain Marchand, Marc Monnin)
5. Torvar Mirsky (AUS), 2-3
(Crew: Nick Davis, Per Fyrkholm-Arr, Graeme Spence)
T. Blythe Walker (BER), 2-3
(Crew: Adam Barboza, Carola Cooper, Somers Kempe)
7. Paula Lewin (BER), 1-4
(Crew: Diana Mitchell, Lisa Neasham, Leatrice Roman, Peta White)
8. Jes Gram-Hansen (DEN) Mascalzone Latino – Capitalia, 1-4
(Crew: Pierluigi de Felice, Rasmus Kostner, Chresten Plinius)

The Bermuda Department of Tourism is an Official Host Sponsor of the Gold Cup. Event sponsors include Renaissance Re, Max Re, Bermuda Telephone, Bermuda Premium Spirits and Oleander Cycle.

The World Tour is sanctioned by ISAF, sailing’s world governing body. The World Tour Partner and Official Car is BMW (Munich, Germany). World Tour sponsors include Sebago (Rockford, Mich.), the Official Footwear Supplier, Travel Places (West Sussex, England), the Official Travel Partner, and Wedgwood (Stoke-on-Trent, England), the Official Trophy Sponsor.

More photos on the following pages.... One hand on the tiller, one on the mainsheet and a keen eye on the windward mark.

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