Photography by © ACEA 2017 / Photo Gilles Martin-Raget & Photo Ricardo Pinto
Emirates Team New Zealand pitch-poled in spectacular fashion during a pre-start duel with Land Rover BAR. Having been stalled by Sir Ben Ainslie on the start line, Team New Zealand helmsman Peter Burling accelerated but then appeared to lose control, nose-dived and then capsized.
Cycling grinder Simon van Velthooven was suspended in mid-air after the mishap, along with skipper with Glenn Ashby and Burling. The three other crew members were flung into the water by the force of the impact as the boat pitched forward off its foils.
“Firstly, and the most important thing for us, is that all the guys on board are safe and with no major injuries,” said Burling. “It is definitely a relief when you see them falling off that you can look back and see their heads above water and that they’re all fine.
“We sustained quite a bit of damage to the boat but the shore guys are assessing the damage and we feel we will be able to repair it and get back out and into the action.”
Team New Zealand’s wing sail sustained most of the damage, compounding the Kiwis’ issues. Even before the first race of the afternoon they had to return to base to fit their spare wing sail after an unknown problem was discovered on the wing sail they were intending to race with.
Most of the damage is thought to be cosmetic, but there did appear to be a breakage towards the top of the replacement wing sail, meaning the shore crew is under immense pressure to fix the boat’s critical main source of propulsion before the next race.
Great Britain took the win to cut Team New Zealand’s lead to 3-1 in the bid to gain five wins and move through to the challenger’s final.
A stunned onlooker like everyone else, Ainslie said helping their opponents in the case of a capsize had been something the British syndicate had discussed as a team prior to the start of racing, given the strong winds and choppy seas they were faced with.
“I didn’t actually see the capsize itself, we’d just come off the start-line,” he said in the aftermath.
“It was an amazing day of sailing. Certainly the most exciting and exhilarating racing I’ve ever been involved in, in my life,” said the four-time Olympic gold medallist.
“We were pleased with how we sailed as a team because I think all of the teams were struggling to get around the course. Ultimately one loss and one win, considering the conditions, we are happy with that.”
Winds were recorded at 21 knots and gusting close to the 24-knot upper limit just prior to Team New Zealand’s crash, which came at the end of a chaotic day which saw both boats in the other semi-final also counting the cost.
Nathan Outteridge’s team on Artemis Racing found their boat unable to deal with the squally conditions, dropping both their races to Dean Barker’s SoftBank Team Japan.
Team Japan won two-from-two against Artemis to push out to a 3-1 lead in the race to five wins.
But both boats had big moments in their first race, causing parts of their fairings to be ripped away from the inside section of their hulls.
There was some potential good news for the Kiwis, with even stronger winds forecast for day three of the challenger semifinals.
That could mean a postponement of racing, giving them extra time to carry-out repairs.