IT was supposed to be a dash around the harbour, a chance to test under race conditions the new hi-tech canting keel fitted to Ian Oatley's multi-million-dollar Reichel/Pugh 42-foot yacht.
Oatley, whose winemaker father Bob owns the champion Sydney-to-Hobart racer Wild Oats XI, chose to skip the race, instead spending the weekend at the family-owned Hamilton Island resort in Queensland.
He left the running of the boat, which is named Q, to skipper John Hildebrand.
It was only the second time the yacht had been in a race since being launched two months ago.
It was with the fleet of 134 yachts taking part in the annual winter series, running down Sydney Harbour under spinnaker towards their mark at Watsons Bay when disaster struck.
Principal race officer for the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia, Robyn Morton, said the wind was "all over the place".
"The pressure was up and down, but the breeze didn’t get above 10 knots," she said.
Oatley’s yacht simply keeled over to its side as it approached the Watsons Bay marker buoy, forcing the crew to scramble to safety.
All that could be seen of the yacht was the dark hull on its side and the crew standing on various parts of the hull.
Hildebrand declined to speak to The Australian when contacted last night, as did crew member Cameron Miles.
"it was gear failure," Ian Oatley said when contacted by phone on Hamilton Island.
"All the people on board were very experienced crew members.
"We’ll get the keel fixed and be back racing in a week."
CYC race officials responded to the stricken yacht, as did an unnamed competing yacht.
Once secured, the yacht was taken under tow to the CYC at Rushcutters Bay.
A spokeswoman for the CYC when contacted last night said the Oatley yacht was the most radical offshore racing yacht to be launched in decades.
"it was built to capitalise on the exceptional performance gains that come from canting keels by taking the movable ballast concept to the limit, allowing the entire keel fin and ballast bulb to rotate around the hull so that when it is fully canted it is completely clear of the water," she said.
"it had been four years in the making from the design-phase, to development and finally built in Sydney."
<a href="http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/nation/anything-but-plain-sailing-when-hi-tech-falls-flat/story-e6frg6nf-1226065212121tag:news.google.com,2005:cluster=http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/nation/anything-but-plain-sailing-when-hi-tech-falls-flat/story-e6frg6nf-1226065212121Sun, 29 May 2011 14:06:31 GMT 00:00″>Anything but plain sailing when hi-tech falls flat