The American Youth Sailing Force (The Force) was looking for big breeze this past weekend, and that’s exactly what we got. The conditions were spectacular, with winds in the high teens and low twenties, clear skies and warm temperatures.
What we hadn’t anticipated was being the first Red Bull Youth America’s Cup team to capsize an AC45.
In conditions much like those we’ll see this summer, Helmsman Michael Menninger explained what happened Sunday May 5, 'After two hours of really solid practice, we set up for a gybe-set in a mark 1 situation. As we began to round the mark and bear-off, a gust hit us as the crew came off the rail to gybe. I felt that if we continued to turn down to round the mark, we were going to pitch pull or flip.'
It was a profound moment for the skipper and crew. 'Continuing to bear-off did not feel like it was the right move and we were not far off of a beam reach so I thought heading up was the safest thing to do.'
Sometimes it’s not. 'As I began to head up, I dropped the wing sheet but it didn't go out as it was on the runner. I continued to head up into the wind…but the boat was going over. It went over nice and gently. The main things are that everyone is safe and there is no significant damage to the boat or wing. It’s good we are pushing our sailing and learning as a team.'
The Force crewmembers have trained diligently, knowing that the AC45 can be a controlled wild beast, but just barely. Team Captain, Ian Andrewes says that, 'When things go wrong, it's a wild beast just in a different way. We were sailing in big breeze on SF Bay when we were hit by a huge puff and rolled the boat over.'
'It’s really important to understand exactly why this happened, study it and incorporate that into our future training,' according to The Force’s AC45 Boat Captain Mikey Radziejowski. 'We’re going to start working on repairing the boat Monday. It will be ready for us to go sailing next Friday in our joint training session with the other US entry, USA45 Sailing.