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America's Cup - Emirates Team NZ rammed and taken out by Brits

by Richard Gladwell, Sail-World NZ on 16 May 2017
Emirates Team New Zealand sailing on Bermuda’s Great Sound practice racing in the lead up to the 35th America’s Cup. Hamish Hooper/Emirates Team NZ
Emirates Team New Zealand has been significantly damaged in a pre-start collision with British entry Land Rover BAR.

Sail-World was told from Bermuda sources that the damage did serious damage to the starboard side of the port hull. In addition the hapless Ainslie also picked up the starting mark with his rudder.

The collision prevented the New Zealand team continuing in the race against Land Rover BAR. The damage is significant and could take the Kiwis out for three days. It came after Emirates Team New Zealand had taken one race off Groupama Team France, and had a another come from behind win against Land Rover BAR. In that race the New Zealand boat lost the start, caught Ainslie, who luffed and crashed, while the New Zealanders stayed foil-bourne, save for a brief kiss with the Great Sound and sailed away from the beleaguered British Team, which just lack the pace of the top four teams.

Emirates Team New Zealand reported that the second practice race day today in Bermuda, ended in a heavy pre-start collision when Land Rover BAR collided with Emirates Team New Zealand after they had been comprehensively shut out in last stages of the pre start sequence.

Peter Burling on the helm of Emirates Team New Zealand had done a good job securing the favoured leeward end of the line and shutting out Sir Ben Ainslie and the Land Rover BAR boat.

“It was a bit of a shame in the last pre start we had the leeward end of the line pretty locked down, Ben was quite late and just ran straight into the back of us.” said helmsman Burling.

“Just unnecessary a week out from the America’s Cup we are all here to learn and it’s a shame we have a pretty big metre dent now in the back of our nice boat.”

As for the damage:

“It went straight in under the media pod with his windward bow and right down the inside of the leeward hull, so there is a pretty good dent there. You can definitely see if has punctured right into the cockpit right around where my steering wheel is.” continued Burling

Emirates Team New Zealand CEO Grant Dalton upon assessing the damage, “We know Ben well, he is a good guy but frustration is obviously getting to him and the red mist came down and it’s a lot of damage in a time we can’t afford it.”

Other than the damaged sustained it was a positive day for Emirates Team New Zealand, winning both of the races it sailed against Land Rover BAR earlier in the day and Groupama Team France after both Oracle and Softbank Team japan refused to race against the kiwi team.

“Up until the last race with BAR we had a bloody nice day, we got the boat around the track really well, in really nice yachting conditions, but very unfortunate to get a hole in the boat on a practice race. I dont think Ben will be feeling too happy about it at the moment.” said Skipper Glenn Ashby

The Emirates Team New Zealand shore crew were waiting at the dock to retrieve the boat and will now be working around the clock to get the boat back out on the water as soon as possible.

On the water observers said the British action was completely unnecessary and has put a nasty edge into the regatta. It is difficult to believe that a sailor of Ben Ainslie's credentials could make such a very basic error, and try to go into a gap that was almost non-existent. Given that he hit both his opponent and the mark indicates how little room there was - the normal move is to back off slightly, cross the line and then drive through to leeward if that is the best course.

As it is Practice racing only there is no penalty, however there are concerns that teams will gang up against Emirates Team New Zealand who are very much a lone wolf in the event, after refusing to sign an agreement on the future conduct of of America's Cup events after the 35th Match is concluded.

Today was the second session of Practice Racing in Bermuda. Emirates Team New Zealand was forced out of the racing yesterday when they broke one of their older rudders in the fresh conditions. They were not intending to use that rudder in racing and have new foils being prepared in the shed. They fitted another old replacement and continues to train on the Great Sound.

In the rest of the racing Emirates Team New Zealand was described as being very fast in the conditions 10-15kts.

A few weeks ago the possibility that one of the teams would attempt to take out Emirates Team New Zealand were raised, as there is not the possibility of substituting boats in the series as each team is limited to just one AC50.

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