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America's Cup: Emirates Team NZ damage wingsail in launch drama


'Emirates Team NZ’s wingsail apparently hits the side of the team’s base in the Viaduct Harbour'       Click Here to view large photo

Emirates Team New Zealand have damaged their wingsail, in a launching incident, early this afternoon, NZT.

The incident occurred as the wingsail was being lifted into place prior to the AC72 platform being taken from the hangar and placed underneath the wing, before rigging is secured.

Wind observations from Bean Rock, showing a rapid increase in windstrength in the early afternoon. -  PredictWind.com  
The delicate process has always been fairly fraught, particularly in gusty and swirling winds that prevail in the area. The wingsail is believed to have taken control in the hoisting process and clipped the side of the three-story building which houses the America's Cup team.

Damage to the wing is understood to be relatively minor and the AC72 is expected to be sailing in a couple of days.

Emirates Team New Zealand has two of the multimillion dollar wingsails which stand 40 metres high. The two wingsails are interchangable, and it is believed the first was in operation today. The second is believed to be near ready for use, and the two are being developed to be interchangeable.

According to real-time wind observations from PredictWind, winds today were initially quite suitable for sailing at 26kts in the harbour and 22kts on the outer end of the America's Cup course at Tiritiri Island. One of PredictWind's functions is to be able to display real-time wind readings from 15,000 locations around the world, including ten stations around the Auckland region. PredictWind showed winds averaging 22kts at Bean Rock today, and the sudden change in conditions was not expected by PredictWind or Emirates Team NZ's own forecasting team, which would have canned the launch, had conditions been too extreme.

Around 12.30pm, the winds began to increase in strength to average 25kts with gusts over 35 knts at Bean Rock, at the entrance to the Waitemata harbour, but more tellingly they were still only averaging 20kts, but with gusts to 30kts at the observation point at Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron in Westhaven.

Similar damage occurred in an earlier incident with the Italian Challenger, Luna Rossa, when their wingsail took control of the launch process and clipped a nearby silo, inflicting some damage to to top trailing edge of their only wingsail, which was repaired and sailing within two days.

It is not known if anyone was hurt in today's incident. However a crew member suffered a broken limb in the Luna Rossa instance.

Emirates Team New Zealand use several electrically powered tugs, carrying a substantial anchor weight to anchor and control the wingsail during the lift and launch process -  Emirates Team New Zealand / Photo Chris Cameron ETNZ ©  

The size of the control tugs is used by Emirates Team New Zealand to step the AC72 wing, is substantial -reflecting the power of the hanging wingsail. -  Chris Cameron-ETNZ©  


by Richard Gladwell

  

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1:49 AM Tue 19 Mar 2013GMT


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