Bernie Wilson, long time America's Cup correspondent for the Associated Press reports on yesterday's drama on San Francisco Bay:
When America's Cup sailors said their fast new catamarans were cutting-edge and exciting, they were factoring in inevitable capsizes.
Monday afternoon on breezy San Francisco Bay, it was no less than one of the most dominant skippers in America's Cup history, Russell Coutts, whose 45-foot catamaran went head-over-heels in a spectacular wipeout.
Grinder Shannon Falcone was thrown through the wing sail and into the chilly water, and another crewman was thrown into the water. Falcone was examined by paramedics on the dock and taken to the hospital for precautionary X-rays. Sailors wear crash helmets and foul-weather gear when sailing the speedy boats.
Coutts, the CEO of defending champion Oracle Racing, was racing skipper Jimmy Spithill as part of a media day to publicize the U.S. debut of the new boats. His boat was bearing away during the prestart maneuver when the bows buried in a wave and the cat lifted into the air and went over before coming to rest on its side.
The catamaran was pulled upright by a support boat.
Coutts almost capsized on Friday, the second day of Oracle's first testing session in the new cats on San Francisco Bay. The AC45s debuted earlier this year in New Zealand, where two capsized. The AC45s will be used for the AC World Series this year and next. The 2013 America's Cup will be sailed in 72-footers, which will be faster and more powerful.
Sailors have known that getting up to speed in the new catamarans is going to be tricky and possibly dangerous.
Coutts, a four-time America's Cup winner, was prophetic when he and Spithill spoke at a news conference earlier in the day about the risk-reward of sailing the cats.
'They're very demanding but also incredibly exciting,' said Spithill, a 31-year-old Australian who is the youngest skipper to win the America's Cup.
Said Coutts, a 49-year-old New Zealander: 'Sometimes it helps to be a little younger, you know. You've got to get to the point of finding the edge and not going over the edge, and sometimes you're going to go over the edge. That applies not only in a sailing sense — we're challenged as sailors like never before, probably, in these boats — but in the design sense. These guys will tell you, that's one of the big considerations in the 72. Because the closer you design it to the edge, the faster it will go. But you don't want to go over the edge. Or preferably not over the edge.'