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America's Cup: Patriot remains defiant in the Prada Cup

by Richard Gladwell Sail-World NZ 17 Jan 2021 18:39 PST 18 January 2021
American Magic base - Auckland - January 18, 2021 - America's Cup 36 © Richard Gladwell / Sail-World.com

American Magic Executive Director Terry Hutchinson has confirmed that the team will remain in the Prada Cup, after nearly sinking their raceboat Patriot yesterday evening in Auckland.

The incident occurred just after 6.00pm rounding the final mark in Race 3 of Round Robin 2, of the Prada Cup.

The team's AC75 was leading Italian challenger Luna Rossa, when Patriot was flicked by a rain squall during the rounding manoeuvre. Hutchinson said the wind increased from 12kts to 23kts in just 40s; the boat accelerated as it bore away in rounding the mark, to 47kts of boatspeed.

The team were chasing their first race win in the challenger selection series, having started the regatta as favorite to take on defender Emirates Team New Zealand in the America's Cup, starting on March 6, 2021.

"There was a truckload of wind coming down the course and we wanted to be in it," Hutchinson told a media conference in Auckland on Monday afternoon. He said that the breeze had varied between 9-23kts in the race. Afterguard member Paul Goodison called a light spot in the breeze as Patriot closed in on the mark. In previous races the AC75s have been unable to foil when the wind pressure drops, and Hutchinson indicated the need to stay with the breeze was vital if they were to stay ahead of competitor Luna Rossa.

A series of issues combined to work against the crew in the manoeuvre, with the AC75 being caught in the rain squall, with the mainsail hard against a running backstay and the main traveller fully eased. Hutchinson said they were unable to release the pressure in the already fully-eased sail, triggering the "sky-jump" as the AC75 leapt clear of the water after the rudder elevator ventilated.

Hutchinson said the hole in Patriot's hull was caused by impact damage due to the acceleration, speed and height from which the AC75 fell back into the water. The team had capsized their test boat "The Mule" 39 times and their first AC75, Defiant, once, all without damage.

Emirates Team New Zealand have capsized AC75s at least three times - all without damage, the last occasion being two weeks ago during practice racing. All the other teams have performed other spectacular manoeuvres in their AC75s - all without damage, however none reached the height above the water achieved by Patriot, on Sunday evening.

The AC75 was righted by the team, but it was only after the initiation of a crisis plan as part of the event management that the yacht was saved from sinking. Emirates Team New Zealand was first on the scene with flotation devices which gave the team and other rescuers time to bring specialist equipment including 23 pumps.

After a slow tow, the yacht was hauled from the water late last night and a damage assessment begun. That process has involved a complete ultrasound of the hull. Hutchinson says the repairs are expected to take 8-10 days and will involve mainly structural repairs to the hull and complete replacement of the yachts electronic systems including the foil cant system.

The team's first AC75, Defiant, was shipped to Auckland and was sailing in July 2020 before being decommissioned when Patriot was launched in early October 2020.

Hutchinson says that Defiant will be used to provide some replacement parts for Patriot. That could include having a hull section cut from Defiant and transplanted into the damaged area of Patriot. Hutchinson didn't reveal the size of the cut-out to be made, however from initial photos, as well as the hole in the hull, carbon shards could be seen hanging from other areas of the hull indicating that the hull damage is a lot larger than indicated in the photos.

The incident will mean that Patriot will go straight through to the Semi-Finals of the Prada Cup. A sudden improvement in performance of INEOS Team UK sees them score four wins from four races, and look to be a shoe-in for the first position in the Prada Cup Finals.

The other two positions are likely to be determined between Italian Luna Rossa and American Magic, however it has not been announced if there is to be any change in the format of the remaining two Round Robins, given that American Magic will default their matches.

Later today Sail-World will post an eye-witness account of the capsize and near sinking of Patriot, along with photos of the multi-team recovery effort.

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