Ever since Oracle Team USA’s AC72 catamaran was launched recently, many racing fans — and crew members — have been wondering when and if the radical speed machine would capsize in San Francisco Bay’s strong winds. They needn’t wonder any longer, as the big cat nose-dived and flipped yesterday at roughly 3 p.m. just inside the Golden Gate.
“We called for a bear-away as we were out training,” recalled tactician Tom Slingsby. Winds had built during the afternoon to about 25 knots, accompanied by a strong ebb. “We started the bear-away, and as the boat accelerated it pitch-poled.” Per the rules established for America’s Cup 34, each team is only allowed 30 days of training prior to January 31, 2013. This was the the team’s eighth practice day.
“When the nose went down,” Slingsby continued, “the wing hit and a few guys went in the water. We were unsure if the wing would snap, so we all climbed off the boat.” Fortunately none of the crew was injured, but the crumpled wing appears to be all but a total loss. Oracle support boats were on the scene, so crew were picked up quickly, with Coast Guard assets standing by also.
But with the force of the strengthening ebb — which reached a max of 5.5 knots around 5:30 p.m. — the capsized hull was swept about four miles outside the Gate before it could be righted and towed back to its base along the Cityfront, arriving early this morning.
“There’s no question this is a setback,” Spithill said. “It’s going to be a big test for this team. But . . . this won’t stop us from winning the America’s Cup.” For complete info on America’s Cup 34 see the official site.