Capsized ships and battered rigs: Incredible racing images from the sea

Story highlights

  • Malta photographer Kurt Arrigo wins World Yacht Racing Forum Image of the Year
  • Picture of competitors in Rolex Volcano Race praised by judges for originality
  • Fifth annual competition only open to professional photographers
  • Judges included Olympic gold medalists Shirley Robertson and Ben Ainslie

A line of sailors teeter on the edge of a giant yacht, peering down at the blazing orange island reflected on its lurching hull.

The sailboat slices through the gray Mediterranean, passing the Italian island of Capri at just the right moment to catch a dazzling silhouette on its exposed underbelly.

It's an incredible image, captured by Malta photographer Kurt Arrigo as he leaned out of a low-flying helicopter during the Rolex Volcano Race earlier this year.

Arrigo has just been named winner of the prestigious World Yacht Racing Forum Image of the Year competition in Gothenburg, Sweden, chosen from an elite pool of internationally renowned sailing photographers.

Arrigo said of the winning picture: "The weather had been bad all day, but the sun suddenly came out for a short while."

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"We were leaving the area but I asked the pilot of the helicopter to fly back briefly over the leading boat -- that's when I took this photograph."

Veteran racing photographer Christian Février said the image would have been impossible 20 years ago, as film cameras would have struggled to capture a yacht racing so quickly with the same stunning level of clarity.

"The reflection at twilight in the hull was interesting. But the importance of the crew creates a second point of interest," he said of the lauded image.

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The fifth annual competition, sponsored by Mirabaud & Cie Private Bankers, is only open to professional photographers, this year attracting 46 of the best racing images from 2012.

The spectacular photos captured some of the biggest events in the sailing calendar, from brutal waves bombarding competitors in the America's Cup to the festive atmosphere of the London Olympics.

Competitors were judged on technical elements such as clarity, lighting, composition, and also originality.

"If you look at the images, hardly any could be taken by someone who's not heavily involved in the industry," Bernard Schopfer, one of the organizers of the event, said.

"Very often you have to be hanging out of a helicopter with no door or on board the racing boat in extremely violent conditions. It's also an investment to have the right equipment that can withstand the salt water."

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The impressive images were whittled down to the top five by delegates from the World Yacht Racing Forum. The difficult task of choosing a winner was then decided by a panel of industry heavyweights.

Judges included two-time sailing Olympic gold medalist and CNN Main Sail broadcaster Shirley Robertson.

Ben Ainslie, who won his fourth sailing Olympic gold at London 2012, also sat on the panel, adding that the moving photographs had "paid a great tribute to the variety and richness of the sport of sailing."

Arrigo, who has already published two photography books on his native Malta, was awarded a trophy at the event.