A freak storm that ripped through Sydney and Newcastle late on Saturday has left more than 60,000 people without power and caused chaos at a sailing tournament where a boat’s sail was destroyed by the wind and then hurled into the air sending spectators fleeing.
The end of the SailGP race at Barangaroo in Sydney had just finished when one of team’s sails got caught up in the gales.
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Dramatic video has shown the wind smashing through the Canadian boat’s sail, ripping it apart into smithereens.
It was attached to a crane and soon became partially untethered.
The battered sail then ricocheted around the site tearing through marquees and fences. People can be seen running from the huge sail as it lurches around still attacked at its top to the crane.
Fire and Rescue NSW spokesman Adam Dewberry told The Daily Telegraph the temporary structures set up for the race were “seriously damaged”.
SailGP has cancelled the second day of racing on Sunday due to the chaos caused by the storm.
“After racing today at the KPMG Australia Sail Grand Prix in Sydney, a major weather event occurred that has resulted in significant damage to the wing sails and at least one boat at the SailGP technical site.
“As far as we know, no one was seriously injured during the incident. As a result of the damage, SailGP has had to cancel racing for the second day of the Sydney event,” a statement posted on social media read.
France had dominated the opening day of action on Saturday, winning all three races while Australia sat third in the pointscore.
But with Canada unable to compete, organisers ruled it would have been unfair and compromised the integrity of the points system to continue racing on Sunday.
It’s unclear if points will be awarded for SailGP Sydney at all.
Australia currently sits at the top of the overall leaderboard, nine points ahead of New Zealand with two rounds left this season in New Zealand and San Francisco.
The Aussies had to race with a damaged board on their boat, making it difficult to change direction in the wind.
New Zealand was racing with a replacement boat after their F50 was severely damaged by lightning in the previous event in Singapore.
It was a chaotic day on the water in Sydney Harbour, with Great Britain team member Matt Gotrel falling through the boat’s netting and bouncing around like a rag doll underdeath the boat.
Had it not been for Gotrel’s harness keeping him attached to the boat, it could have been far worse.
60,000 people without power
Electricity distributor Ausgrid has said that around 30,000 customers are without power in Newcastle, the Central Coast and parts of Sydney.
Another large distributor Endeavour Energy said 33,000 customers were affected across Sydney’s west, the Blue Mountains and the Illawarra.
Wild winds and weather across Sydney and NSW
Winds of 43km/h hurtled through the Sydney CBD at 7pm on Saturday reaching 50km/h at Kingsford Smith Airport and up to 70km/h on Newcastle’s Nobbys Beach.
Temperatures reached almost 38C in Sydney’s west – at Penrith and Badgerys Creek – at about 3pm for one of the hottest days of summer.
But a strong cold front with blustery winds following behind pulled those temperatures down around to just 21C by 7pm. Across Sydney winds peaked at around 6-7pm.
The State Emergency Service said there had been 277 calls for assistance across the region.
Trains services were affected by trees on the line. The T1 North Shore line saw trains cancelled between Gordon and Hornsby; T2 Northern line services were also cancelled around Hornsby and T1 Western line trains were not running between Mulgrave and Vineyard.
Sunday should be calmer and cooler in Sydney with a high of 27C and winds of around 15-20km/h. Penrith will likely hit 30C.
Temperatures will rise again on Monday with 30C in the CBD and 35C at Penrith.
Newcastle should see 29C on a partly cloudy sunny and 33C on a sunny Monday.