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Move fast and break things
America’s Cup holders Emirates Team New Zealand have badly damaged the bow of their AC40 LEQ12 during a high speed nosedive wipeout during testing in strong winds out on Auckland's Hauraki Gulf
America’s Cup holders Emirates Team New Zealand have badly damaged the bow of their AC40 LEQ12 during a high speed nosedive wipeout during testing in strong winds out on Auckland's Hauraki Gulf.
The New Zealand AC40 had recently been taken out of its one design configuration and into LEQ12 testing mode as the team stepped up in its AC75 development and data collection programme.
The crew – including helmsmen Nathan Outteridge and Peter Burling, along with trimmers Blair Tuke and Andy Maloney – were sailing downwind under manual flight control to the north of Waiheke Island in around 15-20 knots of wind speed and large waves.
The Kiwi was was estimated to be travelling at over 40 knots when the sailors lost control of the ride height causing the rudder elevator to come out of the water. The boat immediately carved into a un-controlled high-speed gybe which ended in a deep nosedive, followed by a capsize.
The impact collapsed the foredeck of the AC40 and caused severe damage to the bow section which in images appeared to be close to breaking off.
Happily the watertight bulkhead aft of where the damage occurred maintained its structural integrity and with water ingress avoided the boat could be righted and towed back to base – at times up on its foils.
“It appears that when the boat nose-dived, which was the best we have done, the high water pressure and side load collapsed the forward section of the deck causing the resulting bow damage,” said Emirates Team New Zealand CEO, Grant Dalton.
“The designers are analysing the load cases of the incident and although it might be too soon to tell, it is likely that we will have some retrofit structure necessary to our boat and throughout the AC40’s fleet. But we will understand this further in the coming days.”
The New Zealand AC40/LEQ12 is the first of the new design to go sailing and went through a significant trialling and commissioning phase before the team started to use it as test platform for their AC75 build programme.
The second AC40 to be built was for the British team INEOS Britannia who have taken delivery of it at their winter training base in Palma, Mallorca but have yet to commission it. The third AC40 off the production line at McConaghy Boats in China is due to be delivered to Emirates Team New Zealand next week.
Dalton said in an interview with the America’s Cup reconnaissance team that as well as fitting a new bow to their own boat it was likely that some retro-fitting would be necessary to the British boat.
“Who knows, but it could be that we just need to put another ring frame in the front – in the bow area – just to strengthen that whole area up.”