Spectacular capsize as NYYC goes 0-4 in the Prada Cup

It was a day of drama on the Hauraki Gulf on Sunday January 17. The first race between INEOS TEAM UK and Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli was abanodoned after a 90 degree wind shift. When the race was re-sailed, there were three lead changes but superb wind-reading by INEOS tactician, Giles Scott saw the British take their fourth win of the Prada Cup.

In the second race, American Magic had Luna Rossa on the ropes as they rounded the top markfor the last time, but a call by tactician Terry Hutchinson for a complex manouevre in the strong winds went badly wrong. It appeared that one of the running backstays was not released, helmsman Dean Barker had no control at the wheel and the 75ft foiling monster leaped into the air before crashing down and rolling on her side.

Fortunately no-one was badly hurt in the incident, but the boat sustained damage after nearly sinking.

Watch the video here.

INEOS TEAM UK wins race 2 of Round Robin 2

RR2 – Race 2 – RE-START – INEOS TEAM UK beat Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli
Start: 1635
Port: ITA
Stbd: GBR
Course: A
Axis: 318
Length: 1.96nm
Current: 0.6 knots @ 020

Wind: 14-16 knots / 320 degrees
Winner: INEOS TEAM UK 0:18

The first race of the day was abandoned following a big wind shift, the result of a large rain squall sweeping across the course just as the two boats were completing the second lap.

The re-set course was orientated more towards the west. The shift in the breeze was as just as the forecast had suggested but it meant that the course would be more affected by the land with more potential for shifty conditions.

In the match pre-start, with around a minute to go, Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli took an opportunity to force INEOS TEAM UK to avoid them in the hope that they could make the British team late for the start. And while the manoeuvre might not have delivered exactly that, it did allow them to take the upper hand at the start and squeeze INEOS TEAM UK to the point that they were forced to tack off onto port.

From that point both boats headed for opposite extremes of the race course, tacking at the boundaries. When they came back together the Italians were clearly ahead having benefitted from a good shift on the right hand side of the course.
At gate 1 Sir Ben Ainslie approached on starboard, but Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli were ahead by 10 seconds. The downwind leg played out much the first leg with each team taking the game out to opposite boundaries. By gate 2 the margin had closed to just 7secs.

Another closely fought windward leg followed. This time at the top of the course both boats went through gate 3 at exactly the same time.

Then came the lead change on leg 4. On the downwind leg INEOS TEAM UK had taken the right hand side of the course, the Italians the left. The right hand side had paid and the British were now in the lead.

By the bottom, gate 4, INEOS TEAM UK’ lead was 26sec.
But Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli were not giving up. At the top they had closed the gap down to just 12sec, but despite working every shift hard they could not find the shift or the extra pace required to take their lead back.

INEOS TEAM UK crossed the finish 18 sec ahead to take their fourth win from four starts.

Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli wins race 3 of Round Robin 2

Start: 1730
Port: USA
Stbd: ITA
Course: 6
Axis: 314
Length: 1.8nm
Current: 0.1 knots @ 031

Wind 16-20knts / 270 degrees
Winner: Luna Rossa (ITA)

As the clock counted down, both teams were out of position and late for the pre-start entry. But when they did make it into the pre-start zone they were neck and neck. Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli were on starboard and forced American Magic to take avoiding action, a dial down. This should have allowed the Italians to gain the upper hand, but they couldn’t stay on their foils and lost the opportunity to take control of the Americans.

From there, the pre-start preamble was a little lose as both teams tried to recompose themselves. As the start approached Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli had managed to recover to get to the line on time at speed, while American Magic were a shade late.

Both boats crossed the line on starboard at speed. But in an unusual move the Italians chose to make a big call to tack onto port and cross American Magic before they had made it to the boundary. They managed to cross but only just. In doing so the Italians had given up the lefthand side of the course which on the face of it looked to be the favoured side.
American Magic pressed on to the left, got to the boundary and tacked, squeezing everything they could out of the potential advantage.

When they came back together, the Americans had indeed managed to muscle ahead.

At gate 1 American Magic led by just 6 seconds. By the bottom of leg 2 the lead had grown to 13 seconds.
On the upwind leg there was little engagement as American Magic took the lefthand side of the race course, Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli took the right.

By the top at gate 3 it was clear that the left-hand side had paid. American Magic were now 27 seconds ahead.

The second downwind leg saw American Magic choosing the better side of the downwind leg, managing to keep their gybes down to just one, a result of the breeze shifting to the left. For Luna Rossa it was three gybes to gate 4 drawing out the distance between the pair to 42 seconds.

But drama was to come.

At the top gate for the last time the breeze had gone so far left that the left hand mark was the only choice. But it meant a very difficult manoeuvre, especially as a squall was sweeping across the course.

They made it through the tack, but as they came out the leeward running backstay was not released, preventing the mainsail from being eased. With sail pinned in and the gust now on them, American Magic’s bow reared up – a capsize was inevitable.
Luna Rossa passed through the gate cleanly and took the lead.

Update from American Magic

After racing into a squall, crashing, capsizing, incurring significant damage and coming close to sinking, American Magic’s AC75 racing yacht, PATRIOT, made it back to shore at 10:45 PM NZDT after a herculean effort to save the boat.

“First and foremost, we are incredibly grateful and thankful that everybody is safe,” said Terry Hutchinson, Skipper and Executive Director of American Magic, the U.S. Challenger for the America’s Cup. “The team did an incredible job getting PATRIOT back to the dock.”

The arrival of the American AC75 back to the team base in Wynyard Quarter was due not only to the perseverance of the team, which never gave up the fight over many hours, but that of the greater Auckland and America’s Cup communities. The three other Cup teams, the AC36 event management team, and multiple branches of Auckland’s rescue services came to the aid of American Magic in a moment of urgent need.

“The response from the local community here was incredible, and you can't give enough thanks to the police, fire and local authorities for their quick response,” said Hutchinson shortly after stepping ashore, in darkness, alongside his exhausted but relieved teammates.

“The response from the other teams was amazing, too. It was certainly heartwarming to see all the support, and obviously we needed it because this was a crisis situation. Huge thanks to Emirates Team New Zealand, to INEOS Team UK, and to Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli for coming out and helping us.”

On the final leg of a race she was leading, a significant puff of wind sent the American AC75 hurtling into the air, followed by a hard re-entry into the water. The shock of the landing tore a hole into the port side of the yacht, which was not immediately apparent to the sailors onboard. PATRIOT capsized sideways into the water, port side down, which temporarily hid the extent of the damage.

After following well-practiced capsize procedures, and determining that all were safe, American Magic righted the yacht to discover that she was sitting low in the water. It was apparent that this was a much different scenario than the team’s previous AC75 capsize, which occurred with the team’s now-retired first AC75, DEFIANT.

“We knew something was wrong straight away,” said Hutchinson. “When we tipped DEFIANT over, the boat was pretty buoyant and sat pretty high on her side. When we righted DEFIANT, and as we saw with Team New Zealand a few days ago when they righted their boat, the recovery was instantaneous. As soon as you get the breeze underneath the boat, underneath the mainsail, the boat pops back up.”

“Today on PATRIOT, when I was getting out of my cockpit, we were lower in the water. The ‘pop-up’ wasn't happening. So that was kind of the first indication. [Boat Captain] Tyson [Lamond] came through the comms saying ‘I think there's a hole in the boat.’ We spent the next couple of hours securing the platform.”

In terms of how the team will move forward, Hutchinson said the process of damage analysis, repair planning and repair execution would begin tonight and continue nonstop in an effort to get PATRIOT back in action.

“We have to see what the damage is on the inside of the boat, apart from the hole. Fortunately we're here at our base now, they're getting the rig out, and we'll assess the damage and go forward.”

Hutchinson said that this type of incident would certainly be a major challenge to overcome, especially with only 12 days remaining until the Prada Cup semifinals. He also said that the resilience of his team is never in doubt.

“Time and time again, American Magic has always responded to the adverse situations that we've been faced with, be it COVID-19 or other things we've come across in the last three years,” said Hutchinson. “This one is probably a bit of a larger challenge, but as always, how you get up is more important than how you get knocked down. I'm confident in us. I'm confident in our people.”

Update: 

Skipper Terry Hutchinson fronted the media almost 24 hours after the incident. He confirmed that after a full examination of the hull and its internal systems, they are confident they will be back sailing soon. They can rely on all the necessary support to bring PATRIOT back up to speed.

Hutchinson confirmed American Magic will default this weekends Robin Robin racing to be ready for the PRADA Cup Semi-Finals on January 29, with the boat preferably on the water days before for testing.

“The beauty of our team is that there is a high level of resolve, and I think we’re going to see over the next eight to ten days the boat to be rebuilt, she may not come out of the shed that is pretty, but she’s going to come out the shed to get back into racing.

“I would like to go back sailing before the semis, and not straight into it, but the team is committed to it and when you think about what all the teams have had to endure to get here, to deal with some of the things that we’ve had to deal with really over last three years, it would be a bit of a mistake not to give everything that we had to get the boat back out on the race course and in good working order.”

The American Magic skipper said that while the hydraulics had only minor damages, major concerns lay with the electronics of the boat. Thankfully, the syndicate has brought all spare parts from the United States to Auckland. Now a two week window of hard work begins for American Magic.

“We have a realistic timetable and great support from the Auckland maritime and boat building community to help us. We have a great support from all the teams, everybody has offered up their services to get Patriot back on the water, which again, as competitors here, I’m enjoying the time we argue with each other about things that are in a race and sailboats, and we argue about the things that needs to be done and we all try to get a point across. But at the end of day you can’t come across better sportsmanship and generousity than the teams that we have around us, and it’s the sincerity in the world, they’ve extended their facilities for us to rebuild Patriot and in that regard we are in very strong situation.

“We are going to the plan to get the boat ready and I think the easiest part of it is probably rebuilding it; the hardest part is getting electronics on the inside up to speed. It’s day 45 and Patriot’s been incredibly reliable but yeah there’s a lot of work that goes into that and if you have concerns or worries, it’s dealing with the gremlins inside the boat.”

Terry Hutchinson on the capsize: “If you look at the boat it was accelerating, kind of threw the trajectory to turn, and we were going 47 knots or something. There’s transverse structure inside the boat and there’s a longitudinal structure. When the boat slams down it’s fine if it slams flat on its keel but when you land on the side, on the flat panel, physically the structure inside the arch, a skeleton goes through the panel. We are fortunate that we got both batteries out of the boat, we’re fortunate that all the hydraulic fluid inside were kept at the yard.”

Decision about the racing schedule for the final Round Robin is currently under discussion and future updates will be published when available.

Watch the replay of the races and of the press conference here.

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