Boats collide in race

East coast yachtsman Wilf Tolhurst was killed when two British yachts collided in 20-knot north-easterly winds and confused seas on the opening day of the Regates Royales in the Bay of Cannes.

Tolhurst, 64, with his son as one of the other seven crew, was at the helm of his 8-Metre Safir and said to be trying to avoid a right of way boat, British America’s Cup boss and Admiral’s Cup team captain Graham Walker’s 1912-built 65-foot Nathaniel Herreshoff-designed Rowdy. At 35 tons, Rowdy would be over twice the weight of Safir.

The 8-Metre was dismasted and Walker’s bowsprit, which was locked between Safir’s mast and its forestay, was snapped. Making the announcement, Jean-Claude Montesinos, president of the Yacht Club de Cannes, said that, although Tolhurst was lifted off and rushed to hospital, he was thought to have died instantly, hit by the mast and boom as it crashed down.

He added that the Tolhurst family had said that they wished the regatta, which finishes on Saturday, to continue. It was the first death in a regatta celebrating its 30th anniversary. All the rest of the 168-boat fleet will carry black tomorrow.

Walker managed to save his boat as the stricken Safir was then blown on to the rocks.

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