Video: Ineos Britannia’s AC40 catches fire while training in Barcelona

INEOS Britannia - AC40 - Day 34 - February 16, 2024 - Barcelona © Paul Todd America's Cup

Ineos Britannia, Britain’s challenger for the 37th America’s Cup, has suffered damage to one of its one-design supplied AC40 training boats, Athena, after an electrical battery fire onboard.

The two British one-design AC40s (Athena and Sienna) had left the dock early on Friday (16 February) for a two-boat race-training day and towed to the northeast of Barcelona in Spain, to find some good breeze.

At 10:05 CET while sailing off Mataro, the crew onboard Athena were required to react to a very sudden electrical fire on the AC40 – highlighted by smoke coming out of the forward hatch.

Ineos Britannia reports the team chase boat was quickly alongside, and fire extinguishers were deployed, but water was required to be pumped into the forward hatch to submerge the lithium battery to contain the fire, no one was injured in the incident.

After stabilising the yacht and contacting the emergency services, the team had a long tow back to the Ineos Britannia team base, with constant monitoring of the crew onboard and the lithium battery.

At 14:45 Athena arrived back at the team base, where the fire services were waiting and the battery was then safely removed. Ineos Britannia says the response was well managed with specialist training coming to the fore.

The damage will now be assessed by the shore team. Both AC40’s were not due to be on the water next week, with a planned maintenance week.

Fire onboard any boat is always an incredibly difficult situation to manage,” says Ineos Britannia skipper and team principal Sir Ben Ainslie. “I want to personally thank the team for their professionalism and the emergency services for their support. We will now focus on assessing the damage to Athena alongside completing the final fitout of our AC75 Race Boat which we will see in Barcelona in April.”

Last month, Ainslie stepped down as driver of the Emirates Great Britain SailGP Team to focus his attention on the America’s Cup campaign.

The Ineos Britannia crew aboard the vessel at the time of the incident were pilots Dylan Fletcher and Ben Cornish, and flight controllers Luke Parkinson and Alex Hughes.

America’s Cup testing incidents

In 2022, Emirates Team New Zealand also suffered damage to its AC40 while testing off Auckland’s Hauraki Gulf in some top end conditions.

While sailing downwind at over 40 knots of boat speed, the crew onboard lost control of the ride height which caused the rudder and elevator to come out of the water. This resulted in a high-speed uncontrolled gybe and simultaneous deep nose-dive followed by a capsize.

The Louis Vuitton 37th America’s Cup will begin on 22 August 2024. It will consist of different events, leading up to the America’s Cup Match, or final duel, in October.

Main image of Ineos Britannia taken 16 February 2024 in Barcelona, courtesy of Paul Todd/America’s Cup.

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