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Shelley's Championship dreams shattered in dramatic crash in Sardinia

15 Jul 2010

Shelley's Championship dreams shattered in dramatic crash in Sardinia

Shelley Jory Leigh, Britain’s leading female power boat racer, has suffered head injuries and a broken nose in a serious accident during testing for Rounds 5 & 6 of the UIM World Championship Grand Prix of the Sea in Poltu Quatu, Sardinia.

The severity of the crash and the impact on her family have caused her to seriously consider her future in the sport, despite not reaching her long held goal of a world championship.

Shelley was racing in the 41ft, powerful race boat called Spirit of Belgium with throttleman, Patrick Huybreghts. The team were back on the water after enduring a frightening spin out and emergency rescue in the previous round in Malta.

Although the sea conditions were challenging in Sardinia Shelley had encountered worse and she was confident about the weekend’s races. However, during afternoon testing the seas proved totally unpredictable and the boat came off the top of a rolling wave. As the bow of the boat landed it shattered on impact.  The force caused both Shelley and Patrick to hit their heads on the console. The boat started to take on significant water.

Despite her injuries Shelley’s long racing experience paid off as she moved into emergency mode and radioed for assistance.

Fellow racers from the Italian team, SNAV OSG, were nearby when the incident occurred and gave assistance. Further help followed from the Event’s safety and medical teams. Shelley and Patrick were both taken ashore to receive treatment for their injuries and were then transferred to hospital.

Shelley was released from hospital in Sardinia on Saturday but will require further treatment on her return to the UK. Throttleman Patrick Huybreghts, who suffered a dislocated shoulder and head injuries, is making good progress towards a full recovery.

On her release from hospital Shelley reflected on the incident:

“The conditions were good, there were lazy rolling swells and we came off the crest of the wave as I have done many times before.  We both had full control and it felt fine. But, as the bow landed it destroyed on impact, causing the boat to stop violently. We were thrown forward into the console.

I could feel the water around my calves and realised Patrick was only semi conscious. I radioed for urgent assistance and the SNAV OSG team were with us immediately. I’d like to offer huge thanks to them and the safety crews and medics all for their help and support.

This incident, coming so soon after Malta has made me reflect on my life as a powerboat racer and the dangers involved. As many top water sports men and women know the sea is just so unpredictable. Although I take every precaution and train as hard as I can for each race nothing can prepare you for the feeling when you face real danger and life threatening conditions. This incident has made me really appreciate my life, my family and perhaps the world outside power boating.

It may be a long time before I get back into a competitive power boat. I have known what it is to win a British championship and perhaps that’s enough… ”

Victoria Campbell, the Managing Director of Rotary Watches, Shelley's official sponsor, made the following comment: "We are very relieved to hear that Shelley is recovering after this very traumatic incident. The pictures reinforce the true severity of the accident and we are thankful that Shelley and Patrick are both feeling increasingly better as the days go on. We completely support Shelley with whatever choices she may make with respect to her future as a competitive powerboat pilot."

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