Peter Shrubb yesterday relived the moment he was nearly crushed to death during the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series races in the Great Sound.
Shrubb, who was officiating at the regatta, was on the umpire boat that ploughed into Artemis Racing’s catamaran during the pre-start of the second race on Sunday.
While the Artemis boat suffered extensive damage, the collision propelled Shrubb between the two boats, and only his helmet, and the quick-thinking of the Artemis crew, saved his life.
“I got caught in-between the umpire boat and the race boat,” Shrubb said. “Luckily I had my helmet on because it was preventing my head from being squeezed in-between the two boats.
“I got jammed in there and could not get my head out because the boats were still moving at that point. Artemis was still going forward, which was applying more pressure and thankfully the Artemis crew was quick to respond.”
Shrubb was quick to praise the Artemis crew for attending to his plight before their own, especially considering the damage that was done to the catamaran could have ended their regatta prematurely.
“They came running up and saw the problem, and my fellow umpire Alfredo [Ricci] and the other guys grabbed me, and pulled me out from between the two boats.
“It was amazing that their boat was not their primary concern. Their primary concern was helping Alfredo and I because they could see were in a bit of trouble there.
“Their whole crew came running forward and I am thankful that they did, because things could have got a lot worst if they hadn’t come up and helped us as quickly as they did.”
As it was, Shrubb, and Ricci, who was driving at the time of the crash, escaped with minor injuries.
The Artemis boat was not quite so lucky, and the Swedish team had to cut away their code zero sail as part of the running repairs that enabled them to remain in the race.
Whether anyone was to blame for what could have been a fatal accident is not something that has been publicly discussed. For his part Shrubb said it was part of the accepted risk of the sport.
“It was just part of the game we play,” Shrubb said. “You have big, fast boats in a confined area, and the umpires boats have to be right in the mix, and sometimes these things happen.”
Shrubb said that by the time he knew the two boats were going to collide, there was nothing anybody could have done to prevent it from happening.
“We were coming around the outside of the spectator fleet to get into position to see the boats entering into their final tack into the start,” he said. “It was a narrow corridor between the spectator boats, and the pin end of the start line. We got in there and were moving up into position, and Artemis came around from the other side of the boats we were watching into the same corridor we were in.
“They were kind of aiming at us, and we were aiming at them, and there was not a whole lot of room to go anywhere.
“We slammed the boat into reverse but the collision was inevitable at that point. Things move pretty quickly in this kind of event and we just got caught off guard.”
Shrubb said that once he was pulled free, crew on both boats went into survival mode, desperate to ensure they could continue.
“We suffered a few bangs and bruises,” Shrubb said.
“We were a bit shocked, and were just trying to catch our breath and get back into umpiring mode. We saw there was some damage on their boat, and they were working hard to repair what had to be repaired to go sailing again. Everybody was just in their own survival mode to do what they needed to do to get back on the water again.”
That Artemis were subsequently able to not only race, but win the regatta was something Shrubb called “pretty amazing”, and he was delighted to be able to present them with champagne at the end.
“One minute they are saving me and then the next I’m handing them a bottle of champagne for winning the regatta,” he said. “You could not have written a better storyline.
“I think this will go down as my most memorable experience in umpiring, and I’m just glad that the Artemis crew and my fellow umpire were there to help me.”