Team New Zealand rushed to help save American Magic’s AC75 Patriot after the boat capsized at high speed and took on water in a dramatic finish to Prada Cup action on Sunday.
Dean Barker had the Americans were on course for the first win, leading Luna Rossa into the top mark for the final time when a bear away move got out of control.
Patriot leapt out of the water, heeled, and crashed down on its side.
All 11 crew were accounted for but frantic scenes saw chase boats from rival teams come in to assist a lengthy salvage operation that eventually managed to save the boat which suffered major damage to its bow.
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They included Team New Zealand who were out on the water, training and watching the racing action of the challengers.
American Magic expressed their appreciation for the efforts of their opponents in an incident no team would be wanting to experience. They confirmed there were no injuries to the crew.
Patriot was seriously damaged with water entering its hull and threatening to sink.
The coast guard, police, fire crew and divers were sent to the scene to help with the recovery along with chase boats from rival teams.
Flotation devices were attached to the expensive boat in a bid to keep it above the surface. Pumps were being used to remove water from the hull.
A flotation device was also attached to the top of the mast as the boat threatened to go over on its side again in an increasingly desperate salvage operation just off Milford in around 12m of water.
The massive double-skinned wing sail was eventually removed as the Americans looked to get what they could off the boat.
The choppy sea state was easing to help with the process.
Stuff / TVNZ
Stuff’s Duncan Johnstone and Todd Niall review a dramatic day three of the Prada Cup.
By 7pm, only the mast was above the water with the support boats keeping the hull from sinking further.
A move to get flotation devices under the hull proved successful with the boat rising encouragingly.
Barker and skipper Hutchinson remained with the boat, helping direct operations in fading light. Other American crew members were also involved along with some of their shore crew.
There was pleasing success. Patriot was being nursed back to base stern-first, lashed to support boats, at a pace of about 2-3 knots. It was an 11 nautical mile journey given that racing was being held on the Cup’s most northern course off Auckland’s east coast bays.
A barge from the Viaduct Basin was sent out to help with the recovery.
Ironically, the incident involved the New York Yacht Club, who had expressed a desire to move away from foiling boats and back to traditional displacement monohulls if they won the America’s Cup in Auckland.
The AC75s have been prone to capsizes.
Team New Zealand have capsized their boats three times but been able to sail on.
That won’t be the case for American Magic.
The next races in the Prada Cup round-robin are on Friday and it remains to be seen if they will be able to compete.
They have their first boat Defiant in Auckland, though it has been cannibalised with many parts on board Patriot.
The inside of these boats are filled with expensive technology, including electronics, crucial to their performance and Patriot will certainly have suffered problems in this area.
Sitting bottom of the points table without a win, American Magic were already facing the prospect of having to go into the repchage semifinal that doesn’t start until January 29.
It is the second major America’s Cup accident to a team representing the New York Yacht Club.
In 1999 during the challenger series, Young America suffered a structural failure in Auckland, and while it didn’t sink, was badly damaged with no injuries to crew.
In 1995, the last America’s Cup boat to sink was One Australia which broke in half in San Diego. One of the crew who ended up in the water was Iain Murray, the regatta director for this cup event.
In 2013 defenders Oracle Team USA seriously damaged their 72-foot foiling catamaran in a training capsize.
Team New Zealand pitch-poled their 50-foot foiling catamaran in a challenger series semifinal in Bermuda. They managed to repair the damage in time to race the next day and went on to win the America’s Cup