Excerpt from the book Sports the Olympics Forgot This book describes 40 sports that ought to be played but aren’t, because I made them up.
As soon as the sails are raised the yachts head to the coast, sometimes to the consternation of the more inexperienced crews who aren’t always ready for the initial burst of speed generated by the wind. The race is not about pure speed as the teams have to tack across the wind to round six separate penguin-shaped markers in the ice; there is approximately 1.5 miles between each marker.
Accidents are quite common as the wind speed leaves little room for error. The most accidents are at the first ‘Emperor Penguin’ marker where all the teams are bunched together and at the sixth and final ‘Rock Hopper Penguin’ marker where the teams are jostling for the best line to reach the finish ahead of the rest.
The biggest accident was in 1983 when 15 of the 16 yachts in that race crashed at the Emperor Penguin. A gust caused the leading New Zealand yacht, ‘Frank Oliver’, to veer across the path of the other yachts who all tried to take avoiding action, but this only resulted in skis becoming entangled and yachts capsizing on to the ice. This general misfortune did allow the Moroccan yacht, ‘Sahara Moon’ a surprise late entrant, to win the race although their winning time of 14 minutes 16 seconds was the slowest ever.
Another bad accident, which almost caused an international incident, occurred in 1985 when the US yacht ‘Reagan Forever’ was leading going into the Rock Hopper turn. The Soviet yacht, ‘Potemkin’, was taking a very sharp line and as the wind picked up effectively torpedoed the American boat, knocking the crew on to the ice. One of the crew’s legs was broken when an anchor from the yacht fell on his knee. The Soviet yacht was immediately disqualified – a black seal was waved in the air by the Umpire – allowing the British yacht, ‘Blue Peter’, to sail to a straightforward victory.
The quickest winning time was 10 minutes and 16 seconds in 1997 when the Australians nosed ahead of the French in the final four hundred yards. The wind at the finish was nearly 80mph, which meant that both guide ropes and all the anchors had to be deployed to stop the yachts. Even then the Greek boat disappeared into the sea although thankfully the crew had bailed out already.