In the middle ages, the worst sight to a castle defender was an ungainly device called a trebuchet. Using a massive counterweight, it was able to toss heavy stones at a castle’s walls, eventually battering a hole. In yesterday’s Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup, the maxi Wild Oats XI suffered a major mast failure and the rig came tumbling down. Since Wild Oats has a canting keel and it was levered out to windward, the maxi suddenly became a waterborne trebuchet, with some of its crewmembers as projectiles. Four crew were pitched into the water. Luckily, all were recovered and none were seriously injured.
From the press release: Race two of the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup was a day of high drama. The 65 nautical mile Coastal Race took all four divisions all the way up the outside of the Maddalena Islands to Lavezzi and the southern tip of Corsica, returning back down the channel and beyond to the islet of Mortoriotto before a final return leg to the finish off Porto Cervo. This time the critical moment in proceedings was shortly after the start. But, once again, it involved the 30-metre supermaxi, Wild Oats XI (AUS). Within a few minutes of the start, her mast was seen to explode into three pieces. Four crew were launched into the water as the 12-tonne canting keel, then at maximum tilt and with nothing left above to balance it out, rolled the yacht violently to windward. All crew were safely recovered and, fortunately, only one crew was slightly injured during the catastrophe that brought to an abrupt end Bob Oatley’s quest for victory and the continuation of the duel with her near sistership, Neville Crichton’s Alfa Romeo (NZL).