Team Canada's catamaran sail badly damaged as winds cause havoc at Australia Sail Grand Prix
Video shows workers, spectators running for safety as equipment is flung around
Team Canada's catamaran wing sail was badly damaged on Saturday when it was hit by a gust of wind and blown into a canvas shelter while being lifted by a crane at the Australia Sail Grand Prix in Sydney.
Video of the scene shows workers and spectators running for safety as the equipment is flung around in the wind.
Organizers issued a statement saying a "major weather event" at the conclusion of racing caused significant damage to wing sails and at least one boat and forced the cancellation of the two fleet races scheduled for Sunday.
"After racing today, a major weather event occurred that has resulted in significant damage," organizers said. "As far as we know, no one was seriously injured during the incident. As a result of the damage, SailGP has had to cancel racing for the second day of the Sydney event.
"A full assessment of the damage is underway but it is likely some of the future SailGP events may also need to be delayed."
Quentin Delapierre steered the French team to three straight wins in gusty, shifting winds to take a six-point lead over Jimmy Spithill's U.S. team before the weather conditions deteriorated on Sydney Harbour.
"We tried to push harder in these tricky conditions and it was quite rough," Delapierre said. "I tried to keep the boat in a safe position and tried to get the right start and for now it works."
Delapierre won the opening race after the New Zealand team was penalized at the start for going a fraction too early, the Australian team was penalized at the last gate and the British team lost a sailor overboard.
Spithill's U.S. team placed second in the first two races and fifth in the third to hold second spot with 24 points, and the two-time defending series champion Australians were third after a difficult day with 20 points, one ahead of Great Britain. Denmark was in fifth place on 18 points, New Zealand was in sixth place on 17 and Canada was seventh with 14.
Canada finished fifth in the first race and seventh in the second and third races.
Last night a severe weather system rolled through Sydney while the Canada SailGP Team’s F50 was being craned out. Fortunately, no one was seriously injured. Phil and the team are onsite now addressing the damage to the wing and platform. Here’s an update from our Driver. <a href="https://t.co/sPOJ3sD706">pic.twitter.com/sPOJ3sD706</a>—@SailGPCAN
SailGP later announced that despite the cancelled races, the three races from Saturday are enough to constitute an event, leaving France as the official winners of the Australia Sail Grand Prix.
Australia currently leads the overall season standings with 76 points, followed by New Zealand (64), France (63), Great Britain (61) and Denmark (57) to round out the top five.
The U.S. is in sixth place with 52 points, while Canada is seventh with 49.
Spain (27) and Switzerland (25) sit eighth and ninth, respectively.
'The gusts were like bullets hitting'
Spithill said the wind "really played havoc" with the racing among the nine 50-foot catamarans on Saturday.
"The gusts were like bullets hitting," he said during a TV interview. "Downwind when you're going head to head with other boats, it's full on."
After two light-air regattas in Dubai and Singapore, won by Australia and New Zealand, the season had been set to wrap up in the windier venues of Sydney, Christchurch and San Francisco. The top three teams at the end of the San Francisco regatta will sail in the $1 million US Grand Final.
The Aussies were going for a hat trick on home waters but had technical problems before and during the first race and had to settle for third, fourth and sixth in the three races.
Team Australia initially said it wouldn't be able to make the start because of mechanical problems but then rejoined the fleet with 30 seconds to go, taking an early lead and holding it until incurring a penalty at the last gate.
Great Britain strategist Hannah Mills said Gotrel was fine, but "it was a pretty scary situation — he went straight over the front, but the guys did a great job getting him back on board."
With files from CBC Sports