Dubai: United States challenger American Magic capsized attempting a high-risk manoeuvre in a squall while leading Italy’s Luna Rossa on the third day of racing in the America’s Cup challenger series.
A race immediately began to save the yacht Patriot from sinking and to keep the US team in the regatta. Defenders Team New Zealand and challengers Luna Rossa and Team UK hurried to aid the American team, saving sails and equipment and assisting desperate attempts to keep Patriot afloat.
American Magic were chasing their first win in the Prada Cup after three straight losses and rounded the last mark ahead of Luna Rossa. But a savage gust of wind in a rain squall ahead of impending thunderstorms on Sunday struck the American yacht Patriot which soared into the air, then crashed onto its side. None of the crew was injured and all were recovered safely.
The New York Yacht Club-backed team tweeted “awful end to what was looking like a great race for Patriot. We have confirmed that all crew are safe”.
Inflatable bags and buoys were attached to keep the yacht on the surface and it was eventually lifted upright, off its side, to allow sails to be lowered and removed.
Efforts to save the high-tech yacht were touch-and-go at first. In race mode, the boat weighs around 6.5 tons but its 75-foot long hull was flooded with water. It seems likely its computer and other systems were severely damaged.
The American team have four days to repair Patriot before the next round of racing begins on Friday or could choose to race their first generation race boat, an extremely risky step which would likely place them at a disadvantage against their rivals.
Sunday’s incident was not the first time an American team have suffered a dramatic setback during America’s Cup racing off Auckland. During the 1999-2000 the New York Yacht Club-backed yacht Young America cracked open while leading a race in rough weather. Skipper Ed Baird ordered the crew to abandon ship and all were plucked to safety. The boat also was saved.
In 1995 the Australian yacht OneAustralia broke its back and sank rapidly in racing off San Diego. The semi-final race had just started when OneAustralia suffered a massive structural failure.
Strong but shifting winds on Sunday produced the most dramatic racing of the series but nothing more dramatic than Patriot’s capsize which forced American Magic to retire from the second race of the day. Earlier Britain’s INEOS Team UK came from behind to beat Luna Rossa by 18 seconds for their fourth win in as many races.
Team UK lead the three-team series with four wins from four races, Luna Rossa and American Magic have yet to post a win.