After unexpected success at the first America’s Cup World Series regatta, Chris Draper had been having a torrid time this week in Plymouth.
The Stokes Bay Sailing Club member, skipper of the largely British-crewed AC45 Team Korea – one of nine high-speed catamarans contesting the global racing-series – fought his way into the semi-finals of the match racing section at Cascais in Portugal last month.
But in the big breeze of Plymouth Sound last weekend, the Hampshire multi-hull ace came down to earth with a splash when his yacht capsized during racing on Sunday – one of three yachts to wipe out in the challenging conditions.
Then, after two lay-days, things got even worse when Draper was penalised and forced to take a penalty at the start of the first of three fleet races on Wednesday, which dropped Team Korea down the pack to sixth.
The team showed their mettle to bounce back and win the second race, and then take a third to finish the day third overall behind Artemis Racing – which has Winchester Olympian Iain Percy on tactics – and series hot-shots Emirates Team New Zealand.
‘It was a good day but the first race was annoying,’ said Draper.
‘We had a windward-leeward with James Spithill (Oracle) and he must have flagged us.
‘We thought we were clear all the time but we got to the first mark and saw the light,’ he added, referring to the on-board warning lights that are activated by on-the-water umpires in this highest of hi-tech events.
In shifty conditions on Plymouth Sound, the thousands of spectators gathered on the Hoe and elsewhere have been treated to races in which the lead has changed, and then changed again, on almost every leg.
But it was in conditions that saw gusts of 30-plus knots on Sunday that Draper and Team Korea joined the Capsize Club.
On the bear away around the top mark, Team Korea buried their bows. She teetered on the point of recovery but, with the jib still sheeted in, it was too much and over she went.
Draper later said: ‘As we bore off around the mark boat after slowing right down, we got a big gust, couldn’t ease the wing enough in time and so had too much pressure on, stuck the nose in and slowly went over sideways.
‘I thought we nearly saved it, but the wind just pushed us over. Actually, we got away quite lightly.’
The team’s support boat was there within 20 seconds and had the boat upright in a matter of minutes.
‘They really managed to minimise the damage to the wing,’ said Draper. ‘We broke two of the smaller ribs at the top but that was it, and we were able to sail on and finish the race.’