36th America’s Cup: New York Yacht Club American Magic target return to water after dramatic capsize

Terry Hutchinson says New York Yacht Club American Magic will “live to fight another day” and they are targeting a return to the water for semi-finals of the PRADA Challenger Selection Series, after their dramatic capsize on Sunday.

The skipper and executive director of the American team was speaking the day after his outfit suffered an incredibly dangerous capsize while racing against Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli Team.

Hutchinson, who has spent a 22-year career chasing the America’s Cup, is not only their executive director but a vital member of the on-board team and therefore, experienced PATRIOT’S capsize first-hand.

Sir Ben Ainslie, skipper and team principal of INEOS TEAM UK, has said you are “sailing on a knife-edge” due to the complexity of the boats and Hutchinson himself has previously described them as being “unforgiving”.

During training races ahead of the PRADA Challenger Selection series, Emirates Team New Zealand experienced a capsize and on Sunday, PATRIOT suffered the same fate while leading around the final mark of the race.

“When the boat was accelerating through the trajectory of the turn, we we’re going 47 knots (54 mph) or something,” Hutchinson said.

“We were doing a tack bear away and 40 seconds before we tacked it was blowing 12-and-a-half knots of wind (14mph) and when we tacked to bear away it was blowing 23-and-a-half knots of wind (27mph).

“When you look at the wind graph, the time from 18 knots to 23 knots was about three seconds.

You get the boat into a spot where you have to race the boat hard, the boat is very unforgiving, and you have to race it. When you throttle back, you’re as much at risk as when you have your foot on it.

Terry Hutchinson

“There’s a transverse structure inside of the boat and then there’s a longitudinal structure,” Hutchinson continued.

“The boat, when you look at it in slo-mo, popped. The leeward foil came out of the water and we got a reasonable amount of bow altitude up.

“When the boat slammed down, it’s fine if it slams flat on its keel but when you land on the side, on a flat panel, the structure inside the yacht just guillotined the panel.

“I was trying to eject out of my spot, we ended up with knives out and cutting ourselves out. The first priority was getting the crew out and fortunately we were all out probably within a minute. Being underneath the main sail, its unnerving to say the least.”

In the time period that followed, it was clear to Hutchinson, his team and the support crew out on the water that PATRIOT was in trouble.

“We were under a lot of water straight away, then the situation progressed and really escalated rather quickly,” he said.

“A piece of carbon was pulled out of the water and that’s when we thought that there was probably a hole in the boat. It raised everybody’s eyebrows very quickly.”

The skipper and executive director admitted in the aftermath, the team felt like PATROIT was going to sink and their campaign was going to be over then and there.

“We were doing everything we possibly could to prevent that from happening. We ended up with 16 pumps inside the boat, we had a jib wrapped around the hole,” he said.

“Then the fire and rescue [units] deployed what I would categorize as two ‘airplane-style’ life rafts which we wrapped underneath the bow of the boat and inflated. That really that stopped the bleeding, from that moment on.”

PATRIOT’S Capsize – A Timeline of Events

The rescue efforts continued long into the night, with PATRIOT eventually making the 10.9-mile journey back to shore.

Throughout, New York Yacht Club American Magic were aided by the coastguard, Auckland Harbour Master, the Auckland police and fire service, and their three competitors all worked tirelessly to keep PATRIOT afloat.

“As competitors, we all sit here [in front of the media] and the majority of the time we sit, debate and try to get our points across. But, at the end of the day, you couldn’t come across greater sportsmanship or teams with more generosity than the ones we have around us.

“They have extended, pretty much all of their facilities to us, to use to rebuild PATRIOT. In that regard, we are in a pretty strong situation – the guys are going through a plan to get the boat ready.

“The easiest thing is probably rebuilding it, the hardest part is getting the electronics and the foil cant system on the inside of the yacht up to speed. These boats are finicky and there’s a lot of work that goes into them.

“The beauty of our team is that there’s a high level of resolve and what we’re going to see over the next eight to 10 days is that we will be getting the boat rebuilt.

“She might not come out of the shed as pretty but she’s going to come out of the shed and get back into racing.”

With New York Yacht Club American Magic now targeting a return to the competition at the semi-final stage of the PRADA Challenger Selection series on January 29, the schedule for the race days on Friday, Saturday and Sunday will need to be clarified and confirmed by the competition organisers.

Watch every moment of the America’s Cup challenge, live on Sky Sports. Coverage is scheduled to continue with the fourth day of the PRADA Challenger Selection Series on Friday at 2am on Sky Sports Mix, repeated again at 9am.

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