Lightning strikes Kiwi SailGP boat

Published on January 18th, 2023

Following their victory at the Singapore Sail Grand Prix on January 14-15, the New Zealand F50 is currently undergoing damage assessments after the top of the 29m wing was struck by lightning shortly after the final race.

The strike occurred when the boat was being towed back to the Tech Site and resulted in the injury of one of four athletes on board at the time.

Lightning was first sighted near the spectator Race Village, which was promptly evacuated, before hitting the top of the F50 mast. The Kiwi crew were on shore at the time of the strike, picking up the winners’ trophy for the Singapore Sail Grand Prix.

In their place, Switzerland driver Sebastien Schneiter, France strategist Manon Audinet, and Denmark grinders Luke Payne and Martin Kirketerp were on board.

Kirketerp, who was touching a shroud at the time, sustained an electric shock and was immediately evacuated for medical assistance. Schneiter, Audinet, and Payne, who were not injured, were evacuated from the F50 and did not return on board until after the storm had passed.

Schneiter, who was driving the F50, noted how the whole boat shut off. “The wing exploded at the top and we all felt a little shock – unfortunately Martin had a bigger one.”

Kirketerp was transferred onto the New Zealand chase boat and taken to hospital. He underwent tests, which all came back clear, and was discharged from hospital after a night under observation. He will have ongoing check ups going forward, but doctors are optimistic he has made a full recovery.

Reflecting on the incident, Kirketerp said he felt the lightning strike ‘go all the way through my arm and into my torso and body – it felt like static’. Luckily, the charge reduced and ‘within a few seconds’, Kirketerp felt like his body was ‘under control again’.

“I could walk and I felt clear in my head, but I was also very stunned,” he said, “even as I was getting onto the chase boat, I was feeling so much better and getting the feeling back in my hand. I wanted to go back and celebrate our team’s best result ever – but the doctors said no way.”

Now he says he is ‘feeling good’ with a ‘little bit of soreness here and there’. “If I didn’t know what had happened to me, I’d say I was physically ready for anything.”

Attention now turns to the condition of the New Zealand F50, which suffered a ‘lot of damage’, according to Tech Team director Brad Marsh, with ‘all electrical systems going down’.

Assessments are underway but the full extent of the damage remains unknown and, with just a month to go, the Tech Team could face a race against time to get the boat repaired in time for the KPMG Australia Sail Grand Prix on February 18-19.

“Of course we’ve been through similar situations in the past and have had to be very creative to get a boat back on the racetrack, but every effort will be made to make sure the New Zealand F50 can be there in Sydney,” Marsh said.

SailGP informationSingapore detailsSeason 3 scoreboardYouTubeHow to watch

Final Results – Singapore
1. New Zealand (Peter Burling), 1-5-2-3-(1)
2. Denmark (Nicolai Sehested), 3-6-3-1-(2)
3. Australia (Tom Slingsby), 2-2-7-4-(3)
4. Switzerland (Sebastien Schneiter), 6-8-1-2
5. Great Britain (Ben Ainslie), 5-3-5-5
6. Canada (Phil Robertson), 4-4-9-7
7. United States (Jimmy Spithill), 8-1-8-8
8. France (Quintin Delapierre), 7-9-4-6
9. Spain (Jordi Xammar), 9-7-6-9

Season Three Standings (after eight of 11 events)
1. Australia (Tom Slingsby), 68 points
2. New Zealand (Peter Burling), 59 points
3. Great Britain (Ben Ainslie), 54 points
4. France (Quintin Delapierre), 53 points
5. Denmark (Nicolai Sehested), 51 points
6. Canada (Phil Robertson), 45 points
7. United States (Jimmy Spithill), 43 points
8. Spain (Jordi Xammar), 24 points
9. Switzerland (Sebastien Schneiter), 23 points

• Spain SailGP Team: Docked two points in Season Championship for four-point penalty at Plymouth
• Switzerland SailGP Team: Docked two points in Season Championship for four-point penalty at Saint-Tropez
• United Stated SailGP Team: Docked four points in Season Championship for eight-point penalty at Saint-Tropez
• New Zealand SailGP Team: Docked two points in Season Championship for four-point penalty at Dubai; Docked two points in Season Championship for four-point penalty at Singapore

2022-23 SailGP Season 3 Schedule
May 14-15, 2022 – Bermuda Sail Grand Prix presented by Hamilton Princess
June 18-19, 2022 – United States Sail Grand Prix | Chicago at Navy Pier
July 30-31, 2022 – Great Britain Sail Grand Prix | Plymouth
August 19-20, 2022 – ROCKWOOL Denmark Sail Grand Prix | Copenhagen
September 10-11, 2022 – France Sail Grand Prix | Saint-Tropez
September 24-25, 2022 – Spain Sail Grand Prix | Andalucía – Cádiz
November 12-13, 2022 – Dubai Sail Grand Prix presented by P&O Marinas
January 14-15, 2023 – Singapore Sail Grand Prix
February 18-19, 2023 – Australia Sail Grand Prix | Sydney
March 18-19, 2023 – New Zealand Sail Grand Prix | Christchurch
May 6-7, 2023 – United States Sail Grand Prix | San Francisco (Season 3 Grand Final)

Format for 2022-23 SailGP events:
• Teams compete in identical F50 catamarans.
• Each event runs across two days.
• There are three qualifying races each day for all nine teams.*
• The top three teams from qualifying advance to a final race to be crowned event champion and earn the largest share of the $300,000 prize money to be split among the top three teams.
• The season ends with the Grand Final, which includes the Championship Final Race – a winner-takes-all match race for the $1m prize.
* Qualifying schedule increased from five to six races at France SailGP.

For competition documents, click here.

Established in 2018, SailGP seeks to be an annual, global sports league featuring fan-centric inshore racing in some of the iconic harbors around the globe. Rival national teams compete in identical F50 catamarans for event prize money as the season culminates with a $1 million winner-takes-all match race.

Source: SailGP, Scuttlebutt

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