Team Shosholoza skipper Geoff MEEK and navigator Marc LAGESSE were injured during a sail training session in Table Bay yesterday when yacht Shosholoza RSA 48 hit a whale while sailing at 10 knots under spinnaker. The sudden impact brought the yacht to a dead stop.
SA Olympic sailor Ian AINSLIE, who was on the helm at the time fell forward over the port steering wheel, breaking the wheel clean off its mount. Navigator Marc LAGESSE, who was checking the compass reading on the starboard steering wheel, also fell forward, breaking the wheel and injuring his collar bone. Skipper Geoff MEEK, who was standing alongside Ainslie was flung forward with the impact, injuring his knee on the cross bar linking the two steering wheels. Crew member Charles Nankin was thrown off the yacht into the sea by the impact and it was some five minutes before he was retrieved by the Shosholoza chase boat which was laying a marker buoy about a kilometre away. 'The guys saw the whale surface close to me soon afterwards, that's how we know it was a Southern Right,'
said Nankin. Sailing manager Paul Standbridge, described the incident, which took place just after midday today as a 'strong impact'. 'The contrast from quietly sailing under spinnaker was dramatic. We came to such an abrupt stop and the sound of the carbon steering wheels snapping were like rifle shots. The entire crew is pretty shaken up and a number of them have minor arm injuries from bracing themselves and whiplash from the sudden impact,'
said Standbridge. He said that besides the two steering wheels being snapped off, the primary pedestal handle was also broken during the impact. 'We have found structural damage to the keel at the transition point between the keel structure and the rest of the hull.'
The yacht will be lifted out the water later today to check for any further damage. We think the keel must have hit the whale full on. The entire rig will also be lifted from the yacht and fully checked for damage. 'I think the yacht will be out of commission for at least three days
,' said Standbridge. Standbridge said Team Shosholoza had been aware of about four pairs of whales in Table Bay. 'We saw some whales in the distance today. We are always vigilant, both about them and other objects in the water, but the keel has a four meter draft and this whale must have been deep in the water below us.'