America's Cup - March 2011
It seems inevitable it was going to happen at some point, but the first capsize in a wing-masted AC45 came along a lot sooner than most would have expected.
Swedish team Artemis now hold the dubious honour of becoming the first to tip the new ‘training wheels' 45-foot ultra-lightweight multihull on its side, as team boss Paul Cayard described: "It wasn't even a spectacular wipeout at 30 knots. Rather they were sitting head to wind, taking a break after the three hour training session and repairing something on the roller furler. The boat got hit with a gust from about 10 degrees off to one side and the boat slowly rolled over. No one was hurt and the boat was back at the dock within two hours."
Every experience is a learning one - even, and especially, the bad ones. "The team is going to make a "playbook" on the capsize. Yes, even in an unfortunate situation, there is a lot to learn. Hopefully, if this happens again, we will be able to right the boat without losing the skin [of the wing sail]. One thing for sure, it was good it was not a 72-footer capsizing today."
Wing masts appear to be surprisingly resilient. The damage was minimal and the AC45 was back up and running just a few days later. Meanwhile Artemis and two other America's Cup teams have taken delivery of their own AC45s and have started to assemble them. The speed with which these radical 45-footers have moved from concept through design to prototype and now production is phenomenal, and interest has started to trickle in from outside the America's Cup world itself, with private owners and syndicates sniffing out the prospect of owning an AC45 for the sheer thrill of it.
With entries to the 34th America's Cup due to close by the end of March, the organisers now claim to have eight entries in total, including the recent addition of an Australian and second French team. However, stumping up the cash for the entry fee and actually showing up on the start line are two different things, and we'll have to see how many of these entries become reality. Team Australia's entry to the Cup started less than auspiciously, with a link to a website that led nowhere. If you can't master a website, it makes you worry about organising an America's Cup campaign, but still; nice to see the Aussies back for the first time since 2000.
With so many of the old teams from the past 10 years bowing out of the Cup, and so many fresh-faced organisations coming into replace them, it's just as well the organisers have put together an America's Cup World Series to help the teams to get up to speed. Due to be contested in the AC45s while the big daddy multihulls, the AC72s are still in build, it's sure going to keep the sailors and shore crew busy. With eight nine-day events slated to start this July and conclude in May 2012, the teams will barely have time to draw breath. Venues are yet to be announced, but the circuit is likely to take the teams around the world.