Guilain Grenier / Oracle Team USA

Oracle Team USA AC72 pitchpoles

Disaster for America's Cup defender

Wednesday October 17th 2012, Author: James Boyd, Location: United States

Oracle Team USA's AC72 has capsized during training. The incident occurred at approximately 1500PT on San Francisco Bay. All crew and team members are safe. It was the boat’s eighth day on the water since the launch in August.

The capsize took place during the team’s eighth day on the water. Conditions were fresh, with building winds whipping up waves against one of the strongest ebb currents of the year. As the team turned the boat downwind, the front of the boat nosedived and the boat pitch-poled.

As tactician Tom Slingsby described it: “We called for a bear-away as we were out training. The winds were blowing about 25 knots, and there was strong ebb current at the time. We started the bear-away, and as the boat accelerated it pitch-poled.

“We didn’t know what was going to happen with the new boat. When the nose went down, the wing hit and a few guys went in the water. We were unsure if the wing would snap, so we all climbed off the boat.

“Luckily, everyone is accounted for and no one was hurt. The wing is pretty badly damaged, and we are working to get the boat back in position to return to Pier 80.”

The crew and boat will return to the team base at Pier 80 in San Francisco and assess the situation further. 

Images of the boat after the incident show that the flaps were separated from the main element on the impact, the wing subsequently destroyed as the big cat lay over on its side in increasingly large waves as it was washed out to sea on the strong ebb tide.

As darkness fell, the team was still working to secure the catamaran platform and bring it back to base. The wing is destroyed.

“There's no question this is a setback. This will be a big test for our team,” said skipper Jimmy Spithill. “But I've seen these guys in a similar situation in the past campaign before we won the America's Cup. A strong team will bounce back from it. This won't stop us from winning the America's Cup.”

Event organizers say the setback to the American team won’t impact the 2013 racing calendar.

“This is a challenge for Oracle Team USA,” said Stephen Barclay, the CEO of the 34th America’s Cup. “The team will assess how to fix the damage caused by the capsize to this boat and will adjust its program as necessary. We expect them to be ready to defend the Cup as planned.”





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Latest Comments

  • Ross Hobson 21/10/2012 - 13:49

    what is odd is the lack of preparation for a capsize - no one seemed to appear to know what to do....
  • 898568 17/10/2012 - 20:40

    Rémi Laval-Jeantet, PhD former Alinghi's consultant in hydrodynamics : > To be a cat's sailor means compulsory to be a former pitchpoler. The opposed area of wings in rear winds during bear away manoeuvers already ruined our effort with the C-Class OTIP in 1990 and this had to happen over the ACs 72. ORACLE 17 also shows a fundamental error in her foil configuration. To be stable in ride height without a wand or an altitude sensor, can only happen on an hydrofoil boat if you have a surface-piercing V front foils like "L'Hydroptère" or the famous "ICARUS". TNZ has designed an "S top" for the daggerboard which allows it > i.e an "half-V" foil with a 22° dihedral angle which pierces the free surface and guarantees level stability (not an absolute warrantee, but sufficiently robust). ORACLE was suffering from erratic pitch departures and was fundamentally unstable in pitch and heave, flight mechanichally speaking. RLJ
  • hughw 17/10/2012 - 08:55

    back to the J-class days - don't race in more than ? 15 ? knots of breeze!
  • James Boyd 17/10/2012 - 08:23

    So I think we must be rapidly coming to the conclusion that wingsails, while profoundly cool technology, are perhaps too risky (and costly) to be used on boats this big? Interesting that the pitchpole occurred during a bear-away, not in a foiling-related incident.

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