U.S. team capsizes in America's Cup challenger series
U.S. challenger American Magic capsized and threatened to sink after attempting a high risk maneuver on a stormy Sunday on the third day of racing in the America's Cup Challenger Series.
A desperate joint effort by firefighters, police, coast guards and American Magic's rivals immediately began to rescue the yacht Patriot and keep the US team at the regatta.
Defender Team New Zealand and challengers Luna Rossa and Team UK rushed to help the American team rescue sails and equipment, and aid desperate attempts to keep Patriot afloat.
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As night fell, the American yacht had begun to settle in the water, despite mobile pumps working hard to deflate the hull, suggesting that it may have been perforated when it fell on its side in a race against Luna Rossa .
Patriot was surrounded by chases and tenders as efforts were made to stabilize the yacht and eventually attempt the 10-mile tow from the racetrack back to her base in downtown Auckland.
At one time, Patriot's deck was flooded and the bow submerged, but later the boat's hull rose again out of the water. Divers had been used to identify damage and then apparently tied a noose under the hull to prevent the $ 80 million yacht from sinking.
The long, slow haul back to American Magic's base in Auckland began in the dark. Rival teams had even brought pizza from downtown Auckland to bolster the American occupation.
American Magic was chasing their first Prada Cup victory after three straight defeats, rounding the last mark ahead of Luna Rossa when the disaster struck. A wild gust of wind in a rainstorm before impending thunderstorms hit the broadside of the American yacht, which rose into the air, then crashed violently on its side and probably drove the harbor liner into the hull.
None of the crew was injured and all were safely recovered.
In a statement, American Magic said: "The American America's Cup challenger capsized in a gust of wind and was leading a Prada Cup race for the final mark.
"All team members on board were quickly considered by the team's security staff on the water and declared safe.
"The team's AC75 racing yacht Patriot was damaged in the incident and took in water. American Magic received swift support from the three other America's Cup teams along with ... Race Management, New Zealand Coast Guard, Auckland Harbor Master and the local Fire brigade and police personnel.
"American Magic is sincerely grateful for the support the team has provided following today's incident."
During an hour long recovery operation, inflatable bags or buoys were used to hold the yacht to the surface, and it was eventually raised upright so the sails could be lowered and removed. At first the wind eased and the swell improved to aid the recovery effort.
The sails were later raised again when the Patriot appeared to settle down and its decks were flooded.
If the yacht can be salvaged, American Magic will have four days to fix Patriot before the next round of racing starts on Friday or could opt for a first-generation racing boat, an extremely risky move that is likely to put them at a disadvantage over their rivals would.
Sunday's incident wasn't the first time an American team suffered a dramatic setback during the America's Cup off Auckland. In 1999-2000, the New York Yacht Club-supported yacht Young America set off and led a race in inclement weather. Skipper Ed Baird ordered the crew to disembark and everyone was taken to safety. The boat was also saved.
In 1995, the Australian yacht OneAustralia broke its back and quickly sank off San Diego. The semifinals had just started when OneAustralia suffered a massive structural failure.
Strong but changing winds on Sunday resulted in the most dramatic races of the series, but nothing more dramatic than Patriots capsizing, which forced American Magic to retire from the second race of the day. Former British INEOS Team UK came from behind, beating Luna Rossa by 18 seconds for his fourth win in as many races.
Team UK leads the three-team series with four wins from four races, Luna Rossa and American Magic have not yet booked a win.
American Magic appeared to be heading for their first win on Sunday when the disaster struck. After losing the start, it showed good boat speed in winds that initially fluctuated between 12 and 18 knots and were six seconds ahead at the first mark.
Both boats drove to the left of the course as the wind swirled north to west and Patriot increased his lead over Team UK's Britannia to 15 seconds at the second gate and 27 seconds at the third.
The wind continued to blow to the left throughout the race and American Magic as the lead boat was well positioned to capitalize. At the fourth goal he was 42 seconds ahead and it seemed preferable to win the race as the axis of the track was distorted by the changing winds.
Around the last mark, American Magic was in a strong gust of wind and when attempting a tricky maneuver at speed, she was hit by the gust that knocked her to one side. The yachts reached speeds of around 34 knots upwind and 45 knots upwind in winds that fluctuated between eight and 26 knots on Sunday.
That meant the 75-foot yachts, which ran like low-flying planes on foils, often operated close to the limits of their known performance. American Magic's attempt to jibe in these conditions, a move they may not have been able to practice or perfect, has been precarious and the results have been disastrous.
The unpredictability of conditions on Sunday was demonstrated earlier in the day when the first attempt to sail the race between Luna Rossa and Team UK had to be abandoned when the wind turned more than 90 degrees after four out of six stages.
Team UK had followed the Italian yacht early on but made a wise decision to part ways upwind after the second leg and sailed into a big shift that put her in the lead. Britannia was ahead as it neared the fourth gate, but the wind suddenly turned 90 degrees from north to west and eased, forcing the decision to abandon the race.
The race, which was sailed again, took place in a wind force between 13 and 16 knots in a northwesterly direction. Luna Rossa won the start again and led on the first goal. But the British boat seemed to be pointing higher across the board, producing a better VMG (Speed Well Made), or speed in a direct course to the next mark.
The boats were next to each other after the third leg, but Team UK made the decision to shift to the right of the course and was raised when the wind was blowing in that direction. It took the lead and achieved an 18-second lead at the finish line with 43 knots on the last stage.
Other AP sports: https://apnews.com/apf-sports and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
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