ORACLE TEAM USA has spent the day maneuvering and preparing its AC72 for hauling out of the water. The damaged platform of 17 was towed back to the team’s base at Pier 80 early this morning, after drifting out to the Marin headlands of San Francisco Bay yesterday evening. The boat was finally lifted from the water and returned to dry land near 2pm Wednesday afternoon.
None of the crew was injured in yesterday’s capsize in 25-knot winds against an ebb tide, although some were shocked at the experience.
“It was pretty scary, I guess,” said 26-year-old Tom Slingsby, the gold medalist in the Laser at the London-Weymouth Olympics. “We’ve been pushing the boat harder every day, and I guess we found our limit.”
Slingsby said he knew something was amiss when he saw one of sterns lift out of the water and the knuckles of his grinding mate going white.
“I was facing aft, grinding, and noticed the leeward rudder coming out of the water,” Slingsby added. “The guy with me in the well was facing forward. I saw him drop down and grab the pedestal. I was a bit late reacting because I wasn’t facing forward. When I turned around and saw the bows going in it was a weird feeling. No one’s ever been in that situation before, being that far off the water in a capsize. It’s hard to explain but it was a very worrying feeling.”
Video of the incident captured by a shoreside onlooker is wicked. As the boat bears away the starboard, leeward hull seems to rise up on the daggerboard foil. Then the boat accelerates, the bows dig in to the forward crossbeam, the sterns rise in the air and the boat pitch-poles, coming to rest with the top of its wingsail hitting the water. It all happened in about 30 seconds.
“We went to bear away and we were going very fast. Both hulls dug in and we capsized,” Slingsby said. “When you’re pushing the limits, you find that limit and then you back off. This is the first time a boat this big has capsized in this sort of format. I’m sure all the other teams will watch this and see where the limits are.”