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Louis Vuitton Cup-The Demolition Derby continues in San Francisco

by Bob Fisher on 19 Aug 2013
Team New Zealand with shore crew on board to figure out what happened in race number two at the Americas Cup Louis Vuitton Finale on August 18, 2013 in San Francisco, California.

As if the damage inflicted to the boats on the opening day of this possible 13-race series to decide the challenger for the 34th America’s Cup was not bad enough, the decimation continued on the second day.

This time, the biggest sufferer was Emirates Team New Zealand, generally regarded as the bullet-proof boat.

The fragility of the AC-72s arises from the complexity of the operating systems – it is the delicate balance between form and function on the one hand and minimum weight on the other. All parts have to be strong enough to be able to deal with extremes well beyond the norm, but unnecessary weight on a racing multihull is an anathema.

Consequently there will be failures, and generally they will result in the affected boat having to pull out of the race. With two races each day, any failure could be doubly punitive. On the opening day, Luna Rossa was saved from having to claim her one-and-only lay day when the wind over the course exceeded the 21-knot limit.

same was true for the Kiwis on day two, which was just as well for them. There were many more than the nine men of the crew on board the boat, out near the Golden Gate Bridge, when Race Director Iain Murray announced that once more the wind strength exceeded the limit – a 2.7 knot ebb tide did not help either as that has to be added as the important factor is the apparent wind.

The race started normally with Chris Draper in Luna Rossa attempting to gain a 'hook' to leeward of Emirates Team New Zealand. But Barker was sharp enough to repulse this and aimed for the line, arriving marginally ahead of the Italians. The gap between them at the first mark was four seconds – two boat’s lengths.

Downwind, ETNZ drew away to be 23 seconds in front at the second gate. At the end of the next leg, as she approached the windward mark, aided by the strong ebb tide, ETNZ slowed to a stop – the crew had lost the use of the hydraulics that control the daggerboards and foils due to an electronic failure in the system. It was terminal for the Kiwis, and Luna Rossa was soon passing them to leeward and rounding Mark 3.

With a support boat alongside and several of the maintenance crew climbing on to the trampoline to examine the problem, there was no alternative for Barker but to retire from the race and allow Draper and the Luna Rossa crew to finish the race, claim a point and draw level 1 – 1 for the series. It was the first race win in a Louis Vuitton Cup final for this team since 2000.

Earlier in the day, the gremlins struck the defender. As the two Oracle Team USA boats were manoeuvring in the pre-start of their practice race, the port rudder of Ben Ainslie’s boat (the elder of the two) snapped off immediately below the hull. His race was over. The rudder had suffered damage the previous day when Ainslie had snagged the rode of a navigation mark when attempting to avoid a spectator boat. 'It was either the boat or the buoy,' joked Ainslie, 'I think I made the right choice.'

The seemingly superficial damage was repaired overnight and repainted, but no one had suspected the deeper damage. The breakage occurred when the skipper yanked the rudder hard to bear away to go for the start line.

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