Friends and colleagues are in mourning after a popular real estate agent from Hornsby died in a yacht accident at Pittwater that left another person with severe injuries.
David Booth, 72, was killed and his friend Billy Stevens, also 72, was left with with a severe leg injury when their yacht crashed head-on with another yacht as they rounded a mark off Clareville about 2.30pm on Saturday.
Witnesses said about 50 yachts from the Royal Prince Alfred Yacht Club were competing in three races on Saturday. At the time of the accident, it was quite hectic at the top mark in the race, as boats jostled for position to round it.
Pacesetter, the yacht on which the fatality and injury occurred, had already rounded the mark and two crew were forward setting a spinnaker for the run downwind, witnesses said.
The yacht is a lightweight racing yacht, known as an 11 metre class, but is actually more like nine metres in length.
According to the yacht club’s website, the boat is often skippered by Tony Doyle. The two crew members on board were well known in the club as Boothy and Nipper, both aged 72.
Mr Booth worked as a commercial real estate agent in Hornsby.
Owner of the agency, Murray Byrnes, described Mr Booth as “a fairly extraordinary bloke”.
“He was a really good golfer when he was young, but then he discovered yachting and racing. He loved the water and racing,” Mr Byrnes said.
“He was just so well liked. I think he knew every person in Hornsby. If he walked down the main street, it would take him half an hour because he would say hello to everyone.”
Witnesses said Pacesetter collided with a much heavier Couta, a replica timber fishing boat, made famous in the 19th century on Port Phillip Bay. The boat, named Emily, was sailing upwind towards the mark.
The crew of the Pacesetter appeared not to see the yacht directly in front of them, even though the crew of Emily yelled out as they approached the mark.
Because of the number of yachts around the mark, the air was very disturbed and the water crowded, making it difficult for the yachts to manoeuvre. The winds were not particularly strong at about 10 to 15 knots.
The Couta has a large bowsprit at the front and because of its much greater weight would have hit the lighter Pacesetter with force.
A member of Emily’s crew immediately jumped overboard to rescue Mr Stevens, who was losing a lot of blood from a leg wound. He held him up in the water until the club’s chase boat arrived.
The senior doctor at the scene, Alan Garner, said on Saturday the injured man had sustained a severe wound to his right leg just below the knee and had almost bled to death.
“He had quite a severe leg injury. It was almost severed. His problem was that he was in the water bleeding for five to 10 minutes,” Dr Garner said.
“They pulled him out of the water and put a rope tourniquet around his leg but he had lost a lot of blood and was semi-conscious.
“We gave him two units of blood before transporting him to hospital. He had almost bled to death. It was the combination of the big wound and being in the water so long that the blood didn’t clot.”
The yacht club’s general manger, Suzanne Davies, said that the injured man had been operated on last night at Royal North Shore Hospital, and was facing further surgery.
“His leg has been saved so far,” she said. A spokesman for Royal North Shore Hospital said on Sunday afternoon the man was in a stable condition.
Ms Davies said both men had been members of the yacht club for a very long time.
“They both raced at least twice a week and they were often around the club,” she said.
“We have a lot of people in mourning here. People have been coming to the club just to find support in their grief.”
The club held a board meeting on Sunday morning to discuss the accident
In a statement on Sunday, the Yacht Club’s Commodore Ian Audsley said the club would endeavour to offer support to everyone affected by the crash.
“Counselling is being arranged and anyone, regardless of their involvement is welcome to take up that service,” he said.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with Suellen and David’s family and with Billy’s wife Di and their family.”
With Jim Gainsford