/24 sinks at British National Championships
- The five crew of J/24 Juvenile Deliquent were rescued just seconds
before their upturned boat sank stern-first into the waters of
Weymouth Bay on Sunday. The incident happened in the first race of
the British National Championships in winds of 25-29 knots and big
Photos by Nick Frampton
Owner/trimmer Adam Bowers (50), told PBO they had just rounded the
windward mark and got their spinnaker up when they were picked up by
a 'pretty ugly' quartering wave, causing an involuntary gybe. 'The
boom scythed across', said Bowers, an RYA coach and former Fireball
world champion. 'We capsized, the kite pinning us down and dragging
us sideways. We were on our side for the best part of a minute. I did
a head count, everyone was onboard, we made sure no one was caught up
in a rope, then in an instant we went upside down.
'One crew and I were up by the keel, the other three hung onto the
rudder. Suddenly I realised we were going down. The nearest boat was
200 yards away and I knew that once the boat went under the water our
five small heads would be pretty much invisible. I jumped up and down
on the hull, waving my arms, and making huge noises.
'Fortunately two boats came towards us. I have never been so pleased
to see two J/24s in my life. Then a rescue RIB came and pulled us all
out of the water, and we sat and watched the poor old boat go down,
and said goodbye.'
Asked how he felt when the boat went turtle Bowers said, 'It was
terrifying. I've never been on the upturned hull of a keelboat before
and I never want to be there again.'
First boat on the scene was St James. Crew member Kate Thomson
said, 'We saw them having problems as we sailed past them, and when
they went turtle we knew they were all in the water, we had to go
back and help them. As we got nearer we saw the crew holding on to
the boat, looking pretty miserable. Our skipper David Cooper got us
to take our jib down then tie lines to strong points on our boat
which we were ready to throw to them but luckily at that moment a
rescue RIB came and started pulling them out. Then the boat sank
before our eyes.'
The RIB could not take the crew ashore as it was needed on the race
course in case of other incidents, so it took them to the committee
boat where race officer Frank Newton, a medical doctor, quickly
assessed them as in good health and gave them cups of tea and
blankets. Newton shortened course and finished the race at the
Back onshore, helmsman Nathan Batchelor (21) told PBO, 'It's a shame
as we were doing well at the time, it was the first race of our first
event. We've capsized before, so I thought it would come up, but this
time it just kept going over. I didn't know keelboats could go
turtle, and I never thought I'd be standing on an upturned hull!'
Jock Fellows, bowman, said, 'I thought we'd upright in a minute.
Having sailed J/24s for years, we've been on our side many times, but
always come back up. So it was a shock to be hanging onto the transom
thinking "she's not going to come back up again". There was a moment
of panic as we went upside down when I couldn't see the rest of the
crew and didn't know if they were safe or trapped underneath. I still
feel a bit numb, it's like losing an old loved-one after all these
years. I think we're all still in shock, we're laughing and joking
now, I think it will sink in later.'
The J/24 is a hugely popular five-man keelboat with around 5,500 (or
as one competitor quipped, 5,499 now!) boats worldwide. This year is
the UK class's 30th Anniversary. Sinkings are rare, and confined to
older boats, particulary Westerly boats built before 1981, which had
less built-in buoyancy than newer examples.
The championship continues until Tuesday.