Oracle America’s Cup Team Sidelined Until 2013 After Boat Capsizes
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SAN FRANCISCO (CBS / AP) — America’s Cup champion Oracle Racing will be sidelined from testing its 72-foot catamaran until early next year because of severe damage to the wing sail sustained when the sailboat capsized Tuesday on San Francisco Bay.
Grant Simmer, the syndicate’s general manager, said Thursday night that the boat’s high-tech, 131-foot wing sail was smashed into several pieces and will have to be rebuilt, which will take three to four months.
Simmer said the team is due to receive a new wing sail early in the new year. That wing sail, being built in Auckland, New Zealand, was to have been used for a second AC72 catamaran. The platform for the second boat, including the hulls and crossbeams, is being built in San Francisco.
No one was injured in the crash, which happened when the yacht’s bows buried in the waves, causing an end-over-end tumble.
The boat was pulled four miles onto the Pacific Ocean by an ebb tide. The churning waves and tide combined to thrash the wing sail and flip over the yacht. Crews had to wait until the ebb tide subsided to pull the boat back to the team base on Pier 80.
Simmer said the smashed pieces of the wing sail were “too many to count. Even the main element was in four or five pieces.”
He said members of the shore crew went out in a helicopter and two chase boats Wednesday and found pieces of the wing sail eight miles beyond the Golden Gate Bridge.
The wing sail looks and acts like an airplane wing, improving the yacht’s speed and maneuverability. The wing sails on the AC72s are an offshoot of the radical 223-foot wing sail that powered Oracle’s giant trimaran to victory over Alinghi of Switzerland in the 2010 America’s Cup.
Simmer didn’t know how much it would cost to rebuild the wing sail, but said it will be labor-intensive.
“There are a lot of man-hours in the wing,” he said. ‘There are control systems and just a lot of detail in those wings. There are lots of parts and very complicated components.”
Simmer said there is damage to the hulls and crossbeams, which can be repaired. The broken wing sail poked a hole in the port hull and there’s damage to the electrical system and other components, Simmer said.
The shore crew plans to take apart the platform and check the hulls and crossbeams with an ultrasound machine.
Oracle Racing had tested the boat for only eight days since it was launched in August. Two hours into its first day on the water, one of the daggerboards broke.
“The biggest setback is losing the rest of October,” Simmer said. “When you’re sailing in a new class of boat, every day we’re sailing, we’re learning. So now we have to just get as much value as we can from the eight days we were able to sail.”
Also Thursday, Artemis Racing of Sweden said the front beam of its AC72 catamaran was damaged during structural tests, delaying the boat’s christening.
The AC72s are made of carbon fiber, which “is a strange animal,” said Laurent Esquier, Artemis’ chief operating officer. “You hear noises and you just don’t know. So we need to do our due diligence and assess the integrity of the structure.”
In May, Artemis’ AC72 wing sail sustained serious damage while it was being tested on a modified trimaran in Valencia, Spain.
The Louis Vuitton Cup for challengers will be held on San Francisco Bay from July 4 through Sept. 1, 2013. The winner takes on Oracle Racing for the America’s Cup from Sept. 7-22.
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