As we write this we are watching two screens. On one, a webcam is tracking Emirates Team NZ's ASC72 as she puts in yet another training session on the Hauraki Gulf sailing in winds that are averaging 25kts gusting 35kts.
And on the other, in San Francisco, Oracle Team USA's AC72 has capsized, and has drifted out into the Pacific Ocean.
We are watching a live video of the boat which is upside down, semi-sunk and surrounded by a coterie of RIBs.
Assuming the boat can be recovered (we're assuming she will come back in when the tide turns) the capsize is a major setback for the Defender.
Their hull repairs may unlimited, provided they don't modify the hulls in which case they are limited to 50% of the original hull surface. However the rule is not 1000% clear on the difference between a modification, repair or replacement, and a trip to the Int Jury for clarification is likely. Exceed the 50% modification and Oracle Team USA could not build a second boat.
The wingsail is destroyed - leaving the team with just two wingsails - to be shared between two boats - assuming the current boat is repairable. The Protocol prevents more that 50% of the original being replaced.
Oracle would be expected to be in the early stages of construction of their second boat, but that is not allowed to sail before February 1, 2013.
The capsize occurred about 3.00pm local time (11am NZT) after Oracle Team USA was out for a training session in an ebbing tide and 25kts. We believe the tide in the area flows at about 5kts and against a 25 kt wind, that would have been quite a seaway.
The incident occurred as Oracle passed through the 'Death-Zone'. That heart stopping moment when a boat bears off and heads downwind accelerating readily. Generally the bows go deep and then emerge with spray and water flying. In this case that didn't happen and Oracle went down the mine. From watching video it would seem at first blush that the issue was a lack of buoyancy forward. The fine wave piercing bows drove in and never emerged, tripping the boat.
It is now night-time in San Francisco, the boat is still at sea, with the wingsail reportedly unrecognisable (and clearly beyond repair). She is reported to have arrived back at Pier 80 around midnight local time after a long tow from several miles the other side of Golden Gate Bridge.
Whether the hulls are any better remains to be seen. There is a high risk, due to damage and limitation on hull alteration, that the US Defence just became a one-boat program. That would take away a lot from the 34th America's Cup.
In high definition video not publicly available, taken after the capsize and the collapse of the wingsail, the AC72 seems to be remarkably tight and intact. Whether that is still the case remains to be seen in the hard light of day.
by Richard Gladwell
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8:34 AM Wed 17 Oct 2012GMT
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