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America's Cup: American Magic's defining moment - Prada Cup - Day 3

by Richard Gladwell 3 Oct 2021 05:36 PDT 4 October 2021
American Magic - Round Robin 2- Race - 3 Prada Cup - Course A- January 17, 2021 © Richard Gladwell -

In this new video, American Magic's skipper Terry Hutchinson and others share their memories of the campaign-defining mark rounding and subsequent events, at the end of the penultimate leg of Race 3 of Round Robin 2 of the Prada Cup.

"As we did the left turn a 23.5kt gust dropped down onto us, and over she went," Hutchinson recalled.

"My most memory was when I heard Dean say "I've lost the rudder".

"I was clipped into the boat and when I went to eject, the clip didn't come undone - which straight away got my hackles up, so then I went for the knife. The cockpit filled up straight away. It very quickly went from being OK to a high fever - from my perspective. Straight away I was under water and pinned under the mainsail. My head was under water and I was trapped. Cooper grabbed his knife, cut the lifeline and got me out.

"From there all four of us popped out from under the mainsail. We did the headcount, everyone was safe. Ver quickly it became that Patriot had suffered some major damage. When we got her upright it was clear there was a hole. It very quickly went to a rescue operation of the boat.

"At the time it felt like we had one air pocket in the boat, and that was keeping her afloat. We all thought the boat was going to sink."

On the video commentators and the crew of Luna Rossa give their views of the incident.

American Magic's second AC75 Patriot, gave a hint of what was to come on her first sail, when she performed a spectacular sky-jump after some teething issues, and a sudden increase in windspeed.

Her capsize on the third day of the Prada Cup was one of the unforgettable moments of the entire regatta. Certainly it set a new readership record for a single story on Sail-World.

The scene was set earlier in the day, when it was announced that the racing would be taken to the northern end of Course A, off Auckland's East Coast Bays and adjoining the 2000 and 2003 America's Cup course area.

The forecast was for an unstable weather situation, with thunderstorms and rain squalls expected to move across the race area in the late afternoon.

INEOS Team UK, the British Challenger had turned the Prada Cup inside out with four wins from three days of racing, and had aced the Italian Challenger, Luna Rossa in the first race of the day. That race had been called off after a rain squall moved through the course bringing a substantial windshift. The two AC75's remained with mainsails hoisted and tethered to their tenders as the 30kt squall moved through. In the resail, Luna Rossa led initially, but with her new found speed, INEOS Team UK led by the second lap, and went on to win by 18secs - which at AC75 speeds in those conditions is a comfortable margin.

Patriot had scored a DNF the previous day, finishing more than five minutes behind Luna Rossa, after both boats had enjoyed spells of displacement sailing in the fickle breeze.

So the pressure was on the team from New York Yacht Club to put a win on the leaderboard, mainly for reasons of team morale and bragging rights - as it seemed both the Italian and US teams would contest the Semi-Final with INEOS Team UK seeming a shoe-in for the first spot in the Challenger Final.

The US team started well, and held a good lead in the race, sailed in murky dark conditions with the breeze blowing in the early teens. Coming up to Mark 5 in the photoboat, a win looked inevitable for Patriot and we turned an headed for the finish hoping to get there before Patriot - which would have been sailing very fast down the final leg - which looked like being one long tack with a short to the finish.

Another rain squall moved in, when one of the photographers, Chris Cameron, following agreed practice, cried out that there was some action astern. The wind had increased suddenly and the dark line squalls radiated across the flat water.

As I turned around and reached for a camera, there was the unforgettable sight of an AC75 completely airborne and being blown sideways in the rain squall, like some giant kite.

After what seemed like an eternity Patriot touched down, landing on her side, and looked like she was not yet past the point of no return. But the fight had gone out of the AC75 and she turned and yielded to the breeze.

We'd seen Emirates Team NZ go in a few days before in a practice race, and it took their support crew a couple of minutes to right Te Rehutai.

But this was different - two minutes dragged into much more - it seemed like 20. It seemed like the a replay of the Emirates Team NZ's nosedive in Bermuda - in similar conditions, when it took a long time for the cautious support crew to right the foiling catamaran which was shredding bits of wingsail and fairing like confetti.

Patriot was righted, and pulled head to win and immediately it was apparent something was not quite right, and then the bow began to sink slowly but discernably.

Then it went under water, and it seemed as though a hatch must have blown and water was getting down below.

As the team tenders arrived bringing more pumps, the water level rose up the jib luff, coming to a halt halfway up the America's Cup stylised logo near the jib tack.

Many expected Patriot to sink, in a replay of One Australia's spectacular plunge into the Pacific Ocean during the 1995 Louis Vuitton Cup. It was just a matter of how quickly end came.

Ominously an inflatable mark was hoisted to the top of Patriot's mast to hold the yacht right, if she did sink in the relatively shallow water (about 40ft deep).

With a multiplicity of inflatable marks attached to the bow, the rate of sink declined and stopped. The AC75 hull had a residual buoyancy said to be about 1000kg short of its overall weight. It appeared that an airpocket trapped in the aft end of the hull, was either holding, or leaking only slowly.

A small swell rolled in from the east, the direction to which Patriot's elevated stern was pointing, causing the AC75 to roll gently, dipping the starboard side-deck under the water, and ensuring the sixteen pumps deployed would never have a chance of making headway.

In the end it was a very basic piece of seamanship, dating back several centuries, to Captain Cook's time or earlier, known as a fothering, where a sail or collision blanket is wrapped around the hull stopping some of the ingress of water.

With Team New Zealand's tender on the starboard side of Patriot and American Magic's tender on the other, the crews worked hard to dampen the AC75's lazy rolling in the swell, to stop the sidedecks from being submerged - and at least slow the ingress of water to the point where the sixteen pumps could make some impression on removing water from the flooded hull.

Gradually the hull rose clear of the water and began a four hour very slow journey back to the American Magic base.

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