U.S. team capsizes in America’s Cup .jpeg

Crew from the United States’ American Magic boat Patriot and Team New Zealand attempt to keep Patriot afloat after it capsized Sunday, Jan. 17, 2021, during its race against Italy in New Zealand.

AUCKLAND, N.Z. — American Magic will miss the next round of racing in the America’s Cup challenger series after its dramatic capsize, but the team is determined to be ready for the series semifinals in 11 days.

The New York Yacht Club-backed team faces a huge repair job after a high-speed crash while leading the race Sunday, Jan. 17, against Italy’s Luna Rossa left its yacht Patriot with a gaping hole in its hull.

Skipper Terry Hutchinson on Monday, Jan. 18, said the yacht sustained internal and external structural damage, and would need to replace the complex system that controls its foils and almost all of its electronics. The work is likely to take 8 to 10 days, leaving American Magic on a tight deadline to have any race time before the semifinals begin.

Hutchinson feared Patriot might sink but a lengthy salvage effort involving fire officers, Coast Guard and rival teams saved the high-tech 75-foot yacht, which was towed back to its base in Auckland, New Zealand late Sunday night.

“Fortunately we didn’t sink this one, and we’ll live to fight another day,” Hutchinson said. “While the boat has a bit of damage to her, the crew is safe and at the end of the day that’s really all you can ask for.”

Hutchinson said American Magic’s rivals, notably the defender Team New Zealand, have offered personnel and facilities to help rebuilt Patriot.

“We’ve had great support from all the teams and everybody has offered up their services to get Patriot back on the water,” he said. “As competitors we sit here and argue with each other about little things about racing sailboats. At the end of the day you couldn’t come across more sportsmanship or more generous teams. In all sincerity in the world they’ve extended pretty much all of their facilities to use to rebuild Patriot.”

American Magic lost its first three races in and was heading for its first win of the series when the capsize occurred.

“Our team has an incredible amount of resolve to it,” Hutchinson said. “We’ve battled a lot of different things over the course of this program and the last three days (of racing) really haven’t been the standard that we’re after. Yesterday capped it all off. When you walk around and look at everyone in the face and look at everyone in the eyes, you get a sense of we’re going to do whatever it takes.”

Hutchinson said team members, sponors and the New York Yacht Club had never wavered from the commitment.

“We’re all in this together. You can walk into our camp and you can see a genuine component of wanting to win this regatta,” he said.

Hutchinson described the experience of the crew as Patriot reared up, then heeled over as “pretty hairball.” Several of the crew were submerged beneath the yacht’s giant mainsail.

“I was trying to eject out of my spot and we ended up with knives out cutting ourselves out,” he said. “The first priority is getting the crew out and fortunately we were all out within a minute. Under the mainsail it’s unnerving to say the least.”

The accident occurred as Patriot approached the top gate powered up at around 45 knots. It tacked to round the left-hand mark and attempted a tricky bear-away tack at speed but sailed into a squall of rain and wind which included a gust of almost 25 knots.

“Forty seconds before we tacked it was blowing 12-1/2 knots of wind and when we tacked to bear away it was blowing 23 knots of wind,” Hutchinson said. “If you look a the wind graph the time from 18 knots to 23 knots was about 3 seconds.

“I have to say there’s a little bit of mother nature biting us. We’ve debriefed it internally, we’ll get better from the situation and work to not make the same mistake twice.”

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