PHOTOS: Wild Capsize Catapults Crew

Published on November 2nd, 2016

Frank Quealey of the Australian 18 Footers League shares images and the story behind the crash.

“It’s never over until the fat lady sings” is never more appropriate than when it refers to 18ft Skiff Racing in more than 20-knots of wind on Sydney Harbour.

In Race 1 of the NSW (State) Championship on October 30th, the defending champion Thurlow Fisher Lawyers team of Michael Coxon, Dave O’Connor and Trent Barnabas grabbed the lead about 500 metres from the finish line and looked as though their defence of the title was off to a great start.

The 25-knot North-East wind had turned a little more to the North as Thurlow Fisher Lawyers and Coopers 62-Rag & Famish Hotel (Tom Clout, Mark Kennedy and Tom Anderson) raced at top speed only a few metres apart.

More North in the direction changed the game as it created a situation which made it very difficult to carry the spinnaker past the Point Piper headland and across Double Bay to the finish line east of Clark Island.

The Rag’s team elected to drop their spinnaker and narrowly lost the lead to the Thurlow team, who decided they would be able to clear the point and make the finish line.

Thurlow Fisher Lawyers’ move looked likely to be the right one at that point as the highly credentialed crew drove their skiff at full speed into a bigger lead.

Just when the outcome looked settled, the Thurlow crew’s world came crashing down in a wild capsize. The skiff nose-dived, and the crew were catapulted as the hull and rigging came to a shuddering halt.

The three crewmen are all 18ft Skiff champions and have numerous JJ Giltinan, Australian, NSW and international championships in their CVs, but that meant nothing as the capsize was so violent and quick they had no chance of any possible recovery.

Skipper Michael Coxon explained: “The rudder cavitated and I lost steerage. The boat hit a wave and she nose-dived, which threw the crew forward like a sling shot. It all happened so quickly we had no chance of saving ourselves.”

“The Coopers 62-Rag & Famish Hotel crew sailed a great race and we enjoyed the battle with them, and I want to congratulate their performance rather than make any excuses for us.”

Images of the capsize are attached.

Race 2 of the championship will be sailed November 6 and Thurlow Fisher Lawyers team will be looking to make amends for this wipeout.

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