Emirates Great Britain SailGP Team grinder Matt Gotrel has relived the moment he slipped through the fairing of the British F50 and into the water during racing in Sydney.
The incident occurred in the first fleet race of the day, when Emirates GBR was chasing down race leaders Australia during the penultimate leg. The British F50 was traveling at close to 50 km/h when driver Ben Ainslie was forced to take evasive action to avoid Canada. The adjustment, which occurred during a jibe, caught Gotrel off guard as he crossed the boat.
Gotrel stepped backwards to steady himself, inadvertently stepping on the forward fairing, which is not designed to bear weight.
Reflecting on the incident, Gotrel said he was ‘in the wrong place at the wrong time’.
“We do so many maneuvers in these boats that you know when to leave the cockpit and when not to, and I was probably half a second either way,” he said. “If I’d gone earlier I would have made it and if I’d gone later I wouldn’t have been there during the adjustment.”
Gotrel fell straight through the fairing but remained attached to the F50 by his safety tether.
“There was a lot of water passing over me and I wasn’t really sure what was going on,” he said, “Once I was settled and could hold onto the tramp, I was just trying to get back on board.”
The crew promptly stopped the boat and Gotrel was assisted by his team mates. Once he was safely back on board, the team resumed racing which, Gotrel said, was his main concern.
“I knew the race was still going on, so I just wanted to make sure we got the boat to the finish line,” he said. “Then we could address any issues after that.”
Despite the incident, which halted the British F50 for over a minute, Emirates GBR managed to salvage a sixth place position. The team picked up a second and fourth place finish in the second and third fleet races of teh day, and finished the event in fourth overall. Following the incident, Gotrel said he was ‘very grateful’ for his safety tether.
“The tether has become something you rely on so much now,” he said, “you don’t really notice it there, but knowing it's there when it matters is the most important thing.”
While Gotrel is ‘a little bit battered and bruised’ from the incident, he said he is looking forward to rejoining the team in New Zealand next month.
“I’m sure I’ll bounce back in time for that and I’m looking forward to getting stuck in to the next event.”