Members of Oracle Team USA, the reigning America's Cup champions, were rescued out of the San Francisco Bay late Tuesday after their 72-foot catamaran suddenly nosedived in the choppy water during training.
“When the nose went down, the wing hit and a few guys went in the water,” said the team's tactician Tom Slingsby. “We were unsure if the wing would snap, so we all climbed off the boat.”
Fortunately, the team's supporting crew were sailing close by during the session and were on the scene immediately to launch their massive rescue mission, which was broadcast live by NBC.
While the team was rescued, the boat -- a carbon-fiber catamaran, dubbed the AC72 and launched only in August -- was dragged towards the Golden Gate Bridge and the crew had to work well into the night to secure the boat's platform and tow it back to the team's base at Pier 80. The US Coast Guard were on standby throughout.
It was a big shock for skipper Jimmy Spithill, whose relief on reaching dry land was palpable. “A big thank you goes to our shore team, our support crew and the US Coast Guard as they were standing by," he said.
The day had started as a routine training session. The AC72 was making only its eighth foray into the water. But with winds in the bay strengthening and waves lashing against one of the strongest ebb currents of the year, the boat capsized.
The wing of the AC72 was all but destroyed. Every team competing in the 34th America’s Cup and Louis Vuitton Cup (the America’s Cup Challenger Series) can build two AC72 boats; the team's second AC72 is due to be launched in the new year.
“There’s no question this is a setback,” rued Spithill afterwards. “It’s going to be a big test for this team. But I’ve seen this team in a similar situation in the last campaign, before we won the America’s Cup. A strong team will bounce back, and this won’t stop us from winning the America’s Cup. Obviously, we’ve got a lot of work, and we have to look at our plan now. I’m still confident in the team we’ve got and we can go out and win again.”
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- Official America's Cup website
- America's Cup videos on YouTube
- Travis Rice: From The Art of Flight to the Art of Tacking