Mike Mottl injured in spinnaker drop

As compromised gear on the TeamOrigin yacht causes them to lose their race against Mascalzone Latino

Wednesday June 2nd 2010, Author: Marcus Hutchinson, Location: Italy

A spinnaker drop error led to a crucial race loss for TeamOrigin against the Italian Mascalzone Latino team. Their fate in the competition now awaits the results of the remaining round robin races still to be completed and the quarter final format to be finalised. TeamOrigin trimmer Mike Mottl suffered a leg injury as the crew dropped the kite during a manual spinnaker drop rounding the leeward gate and had to be taken to hospital for an X-Ray.

A six-hour delay to racing on Wednesday due to strong winds was the preamble to the last Round Robin race for TeamOrigin in the Louis Vuitton Trophy in La Maddalena, the British team up against a Gavin Brady-steered Mascalzone Latino.

TeamOrigin had drawn the starboard entry in the blustery conditions and roared into the start box to begin the complex pre-start engagement of the Italian team. Two long dial-ups burned up the first three minutes of the countdown before the pair broke off and Mascalzone harried the British team above the line and around the committee boat before the skipper Ben Ainslie led the pair back to the seemingly favoured left hand end of the line. In the last manoeuvre, Mascalzone misjudged their timing leaving TeamOrigin a length and a half clear as the pair cleared the start line after the gun. The next three minutes proved to be a crucial part of the race. With TeamOrigin ahead and to leeward and Mascalzone to windward and slightly behind, a steady wind would normally have seen the British boat in command of the situation. The wind however started to shift to the right and the weather boat was able to live in the unfavoured position and eventually gain sufficient lateral separation to pin TeamOrigin out.

So as not to fall into the same trap as a similar situation in the race against Azzurra yesterday, the British team's afterguard decided to cut their losses and engage early in a tacking duel and try and force an error on the leading boat. Following the exchange of several tacks the pair found themselves set up, or so they thought, on the port tack layline to the weather mark, Mascalzone ahead by three lengths and TeamOrigin a couple of lengths to windward. On approaching the mark it became clear that Mascalzone was not going to lay the mark and had to perform two late tacks, while TeamOrigin was able to shoot the mark. The result was the Italian boat leading around the top mark by just 10 seconds.

On the run the trailing boat usually has the ability to dictate the tactics. TeamOrigin sailed hard down inside the leading Italian boat and when the time came to gybe for the gate was in a strong position, overlapped to leeward and in a position after the gybe to roll through and claim the inside berth for the favoured buoy at the bottom. Mascalzone set up for the other buoy and at the turn TeamOrigin had re-taken the lead. However, the boat handling manoeuvres on board the British boat had been compromised earlier due to a failure of the string drop mechanism for the spinnaker take-down. The crew of TeamOrigin were therefore forced to carry out a manual drop of the 500sqm spinnaker, the execution of which was not perfect: the sail ended up in the water requiring halyards and sheets to be let go. Unfortunately during this trimmer Mike Mottl got his foot caught up in the streaming sheet causing him to be dragged towards the block at the back of the boat. Quick reactions on the part of the mainsail trimmer and helmsman stopped the boat and the rest of the crew were able to cut the tangled sheet from Mottl’s leg.

Main sheet trimmer Chris Salthouse explained what happene : “We were doing a manual spinnaker drop which went wrong, we cut the sheet loose and the halyard, spiked the tack and so one sheet was still attached, that sheet got wrapped around Mike’s leg and started to drag him over the side. We had to slow the boat down to cut the rope off his foot and then got going again. “

The team made a quick recovery but the opposition had not waited and were now back in the lead and more than 130 metres further up the race course. By the time the pair approached the last turn TeamOrigin had again reduced the lead but not sufficiently to have any real chance of attacking on the last leg.

Mascalzone crossed the finish line 35 seconds ahead. Mottl, in significant pain, was evacuated from the yacht after the finish by the Sardinian security services and taken to the local hospital where results of the xray are currently awaited.

Ben Ainslie commented on today’s race, "That rac  was extremely frustrating. The boat we were sailing in seemed to be half a knot slower than the boat we were racing against. It’s a real shame to be judged on that at this level of competition.

“As a whole the crew work lost us the race. We are very disappointed with the way we sailed in such a vital race. We need to continue to learn and move forward. We were obviously all very concerned about Mike’s injury, he was very brave to continue to race hard throughout the rest of the race and we hope he will be back on the boat as soon as possible.”

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