Oracle Team USA, defender of the 34th America’s Cup, suffered a major setback Tuesday after its $8-million AC72 racing catamaran capsized during training in San Francisco Bay. Nobody was injured during the dramatic event, which occurred in gathering winds near the Golden Gate Bridge. Damage to the 72-foot vessel, which was swept into the Pacific before it could be towed to shore, is said to be significant.
“We did something we had hoped we would never do, and that’s capsize an AC72,” said skipper Jimmy Spithill. “The most important part is that all the crew are safe, and no injuries.”
It was the 11-man team’s eighth day on the water since the launch of the sleek new yacht in August.
“We called for a bear-away as we were out training,” tactician Tom Slingsby said in reference to a type of sailing maneuver. “The winds were blowing about 25 knots, and there was strong ebb current at the time. We started the bear-away, and as the boat accelerated it pitch-poled.”
Some crew members were flung into the chilly bay, while others clung to the boat. All eventually went into the water because of concern that part of the vessel would come apart.
Fortunately, there were support boats nearby, and rescues were swift. The vessel, however, was dragged upside down out of the bay by powerful ebb tide and was not recovered until early Wednesday morning. It’s currently at Oracle Racing’s San Francisco base.
The full extent of the damage was not immediately clear but team officials told the San Francisco Chronicle that said the wing, a long, mast-like apparatus designed to capture wind, was destroyed.
The footage posted below was captured by a spectator and shows the capsize from a distance, making it appear less dramatic than it actually was.
Said Spithill: “There’s no question this is a setback. It’s going to be a big test for this team. But, I’ve seen this team in a similar situation in the last campaign, before we won the America’s Cup. A strong team will bounce back, and this won’t stop us from winning the America’s Cup.
“Obviously, we’ve got a lot of work, and we have to look at our plan now. I’m still confident in the team we’ve got and we can go out and win again.”
The America’s Cup finals, which will feature the super-swift AC72s, will be held next September in San Francisco Bay.
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