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Dark Day For Team New Zealand

Dark Day For Team New Zealand

The New Zealand team lived a nightmare in this first America's Cup race. Approximately 30 minutes into the Race 1, Team New Zealand abandoned the regatta after a series of technical gear failures. Alinghi sailed around the course alone to earn the first point of the America's Cup.

AUCKLAND - February 15, 2003 - Team New Zealand and Team Alinghi left their compounds for the first match of the America's Cup accompanied by the din of thousands of spectators cheering around the Viaduct harbor. The ambience was intense, as observers could feel the magnitude of this event. On the Hauraki Gulf, legions of spectator craft followed the race, expecting a fantastic match-up. But a series of catastrophes onboard NZL 82 forced the New Zealand team to bow out early from the Race 1of the 31st America's Cup.

In 19 to 25 knots of the wind, the boats endured enormous stress, especially in the quick maneuvers executed in the pre-start phase. It is essential that the yacht be scrutinized, to avoid the damage that can happen in high-tech sports. The heavy conditions today demonstrated the importance of the shore team's work to prepare the boat for the conquest of the Cup. Brad Butterworth devoted "one point for the boat builders," after crossing the line.

The competition took to the water under clear blue skies at 13:15 local time. Team New Zealand took the early advantage, starting in the windward position in 18-20 knots of southeast breeze blowing steadily. It looked like an even boat speed match as the teams started evenly and fired out to the left. But it quickly became a very different race than expected. Waves washed over the side of NZL 82 in the pre-start sequence, and the boat continued to take on a sizable amount of water as fast as the sailors could bail. The black boat tacked away, competitive in the game, but Alinghi crossed in front. A broken boom added to the frustration onboard NZL 82. The failure occurred at the outboard end of the boom that tapers to a small tube sheathing the load compression components for the outhaul system. The third problem occurred when the shackle at the top of the mast holding the headsail f to accommodate the sail). To avoid further damaging the boat, NZL 82 retired approximately 30 minutes after the start of the race, with her headsail flapping in the wind and water in the cockpit. Team Alinghi maintained their calm composure and the crew sailed skilfully as the wind gusted and the sea state became increasingly agitated. The Swiss boat carefully sailed around the course alone in the rough conditions to earn the point and crossed the line at 15:15.


RUSSELL COUTTS, SKIPPER/HELMSMAN - "One point is one point and we will take all the points we can get. We're happy - it was a tough day in strong wind and the shore team did an excellent job. Those heavy conditions were a big test for the boat, and we came through today."

MANUEL RUIZ DE ELVIRA, DESIGNER - "Two of the basic conclusions that we can take is that we are comfortable sailing the boat is all conditions. The other point is that our crew and everyone onboard SUI 64 looked in control. In terms of speed upwind, Team New Zealand does not seem to have huge advantage in these conditions that they are supposed to be good for them."

MICHEL MARIE, BOATBUILDER - "We have been honored that Brad Butterworth dedicated this point to the boatbuilding team. In a challenge, we try to achieve a total symbiosis among the shore team and the sailors. In the end, it is a mechanical sport, as we have been able to see today."


In today's race, we saw the reliability of Team Alinghi's boat and calmness of the crew in heavy conditions. In particular, the conventional design of the box section boom on SUI 64 proved to be dependable. In contrast, Team New Zealand suffered boom failure when the carbon tube at the end of their lightweight truss system boom broke.

The advantage to their system is that the truss boom is light and they have built it to decrease windage and weight of the boom in the ends. To achieve this decreased weight in the ends, instead of building a conventional box section, NZL 82 tapers from a truss to a carbon tube.

The outhaul system is a complex attachment of the mainsail to the boom. The main load component is compression into the boom from the outhaul tension. The mainsheet and leach loads are separate to the outhaul system and do not get transferred into the end of the boom.

Team New Zealand's outhaul system, at the outboard end of the boom, is built into a small diameter carbon tube. When the tube broke, the team was unable to control the outhaul tension on the mainsail. The foot tension of the sail was loose, resulting in an uncontrolled mainsail shape.

Alinghi, Challenge for the America's Cup 2003, is flying the Swiss flag and carrying the colors of the Société Nautique de Genève. UBS, Infonet, Audemars-Piguet and Riri are its proud sponsors.

© Scoop Media

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