My shock at seeing oil tanker plough into tiny yacht

Olympic Champion sailor shares her Cowes Week diary with City A.M.

IT’S only the third morning of Aberdeen Asset Management Cowes Week and our household must be getting old, because we have already had a slightly earlier night last night.

We have picked up a few waifs and strays. Pippa Wilson, who I sailed with at the Beijing Olympics, is now staying with us, joining in with the Cowes Week fun.

And her arrival has coincided with a fantastic first weekend of sailing. Saturday brought a light breeze and a little early morning rain which cleared to bring a wonderful afternoon with increasing breeze.

The boats were sent west and, with the first starts coinciding with low tide, almost one boat in every fleet pushed it a little too far and hit the hidden rocks.

The first start of the regatta was the Laser SB3s a race that was won by Nick Thompson, the British Laser Sailor currently vying for a place in the British Olympic Team next year.

One of the week’s more important trophies, the Queen’s Cup – for IRC Class 0 – was again this year won by Rob Gray, Sam Laidlaw and Tony Hayward’s Bob.

MOWN DOWN
The best spectator sport was watching the Extreme 40s – although on our way down the front I did witness the worst sight I have seen in recent years: one of yachts being mowed down by a tanker. It was like watching something in slow motion.

Luckily all the crew were fine but it was certainly a warning to all and a reminder that Southampton is a busy shipping port.

The Extremes had four races, the wind increased so much that by the last race they had to reduce the mainsail and forgo spinnakers.

John Pink in Aberdeen Asset Management had a tough debut, but he did beat some of the top skippers at times, so something to build on!

By yesterday morning conditions had reverted to a healthy 20 knots, and the white group, the smaller day boats, were sent off to the east. This meant starting with spinnakers up – great action to watch from the Squadron start line. Unfortunately early on the XODs and Solent Sunbeams racing was called off with an increasing breeze forecast.

Sunday was also the first ever Aberdeen Cowes Week Family Day, so my son Leo and I visited the Yacht Haven to get involved in what was happening.

Even at 10 months he loved the excitement but was a little young for the face painting and flag making – however it’s another thing to look forward to next year.