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Note: Races scheduled for this evening USA time/tomorrow New Zealand time have been cancelled. Off Auckland there are winds of 25 to 35 knots expected to rise to 35 to 45 well beyond the limited conditions the boats race in.
(C)update: Young America nearly sinks
The reliability problems that have plagued this years America's Cup again reared their head. This time the incident was both noticeable and ugly.
While sailing upwind Young America's USA 53 tacked for the windward mark. At the time Young America was ahead of Nippon. While transiting from starboard to port Young America twice slammed into waves. The bow rose high out of the water. During this the boat jackknifed aft of the mast where the foredeck and cockpit join. Pictures of the boat show it assuming the upswept shape of a Venetian gondola. Conditions on the course were described as follows: "... the conditions on the race course today were well within the conditions of the rules. It was about 17 knots of wind with some gusts."
The reason for this incident could be in any of several areas. The failure could be due to a design error, or a miscalculation in engineering the structure surrounding the mast. There may have been an error during the building, or faulty materials. Lastly the crew could have errored and overloaded the boat. Ken McAlpine the chief measurer of the IACC class says, "In the case of this particular boat and obviously in the case of oneAustralia, their mathematical models, their fundamental analysis, was found wanting." At this point nobody knows exactly how the miscalculation occurred and all of the above areas will be inquired into.
After the incident the entire crew abandoned ship. After a while they boarded the boat to remove sails and gear and secure a tow line. Additionally pumps were put in the boat along with flotation. Young America was towed back to harbor.
Young America expects to be able to repair the boat. They feel most of the damage was to the deck and that the yacht's essential structures are in tact. This would seem to be an interesting bit of spin as it seems a yacht with it's essential structures in tact could finish the race.
Standard procedure with these fragile boats is to find flat water before tacking. Young America skipper Ed Baird felt he didn't have that option saying: "We were only a length or two ahead and we had to tack for the mark or have a problem keeping our lead."
The good side is that Young America does have another boat in Auckland. This boat is USA 58 which they planned to race later in the trials. One question raised is that USA 58 could be susceptible to similar damage. Ed Baird is aware of this saying, "I dont at this point know how we could possibly sail tomorrow. Clearly some things are similar between the boats, some things are not. Until we learn more about why this failed . . . it may have been something different than a calculation. We have to go and research it. In light of such worries some say Young America should not risk another problem and sit out the remaining round 2 races while sorting thing out.
One cup player designer Andy Dovell (designer of Abracadabra's 1999 boats and the One Australia's in 1995) questions whether Young America should be able to sail USA 58. Dovell says, "'I don't think they should be allowed to substitute this round,' he said. 'All the other teams can't even alter the wings on the keel. Why should they be allowed to sail a different boat? If teams are allowed to change boats mid-round, it sends the wrong message to designers,' said Dovell. 'Sub-consciously, you would build one boat really close to the line, knowing you could use the stronger boat if there was a problem.'
This incident may bring calls for greater control of how the boats are built. Chief Measurer Ken McAlpline doesn't feel more rules to be appropriate saying: "It still remains that its their decision, its not a place for the rule."
The theme of greater reliability is one that will continue to be raised. With problems throughout the fleet, it would seem that optimizing reliability is a quick way to the top.
(C)update: Monday 15 November
Results of Race 7 of Round 2 are as follows:
Races again featured the lite stuff. The key to many a race was control of the left side. For instance Prada got the left at the start and held America One in check. America True's Dawn Riley commented on the left handedness of the race course: "It wasn't just one big shift but oscillations of about 10 degrees, back and forth. The lefties had more pressure, and we seemed to gain on every one of those." This is not to say that the left side call was a no brainer. Stars and Stripes Ken Read had the right side in mind saying: "We wanted the right; we won the right on the starting line; we took the right and we were wrong!"
Updated Standings: Table
Schedule for Race 8 is as follows:
Round Robin 2 Standings through races of Saturday 13 November
Playstation: Waiting Game
Playstation remains in New York awaiting advantageous weather for her attempt on the Atlantic sailing speed records. An Atlantic ocean dominated by high pressure has seen the Playstation team rule out this week. The next weather window is not seen until 17 November.
Problems caused by this wait are detailed by skipper Steve Fossett: "With each passing day, there is less daylight - requiring a greater percentage of nighttime driving - which is more difficult. If we are still waiting until December, sea ice will start to form off of Newfoundland, adding another danger."