If I say : " I've never seen such a hail squall since 25 years or so I've been doing this job of marine photography", you will think :" Mmh, this guy doesn't know what he's talking about, or doen't go that often at sea, or he speaks too loud".
But when, speaking of the same event that happened during the 3rd day of racing of the 2007 Régates Royales sailed in Cannes (FRA), Dennis Conner himself who was attending onboard his beautiful restored Cuttom Blossom writes : "The hail was the worst I have ever experienced! It really hurt and I was concerned about the damage to the varnish with marble size rocks falling from the heavens. We could not see, like being in a snow storm. We started the motor and dropped the main with no real drama. I ordered the life jackets and many went below for shelter. I did not have my gear on and was quickly freezing. It would have been good for the rum and coke as the cockpit was quickly covered with ice!!! "
So, on our press boat it was about the same except I was rather concerned about my camera equipment than for the varnish of our Protector rib which does'nt have any.
I use to say that never a photo is worth to kill your equipment because maybe you'll need it the next hour for something even better, and definitely the next day for a more regular work, but I have to admit that this time I pushed the envelop a bit further...
In fact, hail is not exactly water, so bending over your camera to protect it and offering your back to the wind and the stones, you can shoot. Well, more or less... But after all, it's clear water, and a good rince for the usual salted water that damage every day those precious bodies and lenses.
In fact, it was a so strong moment that you say to yourself "I have to shoot, I have to shoot.", noticing in the same time that this F... hail is starting to hurt your head !... Yes, but the point is that the nice classic Yachts fleet that was under ours eyes two minutes before just vanished in the fog and we could hardly see any boat around us, knowing that they were so close anyway !...
Hopefully few of them came in our direction, and it was obvious that they were not quite in good shape nor knowing exactly where they were heading to.
Great sailing moment, anyway. One of those that you remember for years. That's why I love sailing and being at sea. It's sometimes so uncomfortable, so crazy, so frightening that you're finally happy to be able to go through it.