‘This can be fixed’ – watch desperate battle to save Patriot
American Magic sailors and support crew fought a desperate battle to save Patriot, the AC75 the 150-person team spent years designing, building, sailing and refining.
Patriot sustained major mid-race damage to the port side of the hull and was in real danger of slipping beneath the waves after a 25-knot rain squall sent her flying into the air and then down onto her side while racing yesterday (17Jan21).
The shock of the landing tore a hole into the port side of the yacht, which was not immediately apparent to the sailors onboard. Patriot capsized sideways into the water, port side down, which temporarily hid the extent of the damage.
Just moments later the boat was literally sinking. The support team rushed to its aid, with strategic airbags to keep it afloat, but the outlook was so bleak, airbags were added on the top of the mast so the boat could be found when it sunk.
Watch the drama unfold in this video from American Magic.
“We knew something was wrong straight away,” says Terry Hutchinson (skipper). “When we tipped Defiant over, the boat was pretty buoyant and sat pretty high on her side. When we righted Defiant, and as we saw with Team New Zealand a few days ago when they righted their boat, the recovery was instantaneous. As soon as you get the breeze underneath the boat, underneath the mainsail, the boat pops back up.
“Today on Patriot, when I was getting out of my cockpit, we were lower in the water. The ‘pop-up’ wasn’t happening. So that was kind of the first indication. [Boat Captain] Tyson [Lamond] came through the comms saying ‘I think there’s a hole in the boat.’ We spent the next couple of hours securing the platform.”
“At the time, it felt like the boat was going to sink. We were doing everything we possibly could to prevent that from happening. Everybody around us, from the other teams to the local authorities helped us get the pumps in the boat, and we ended up with 16 pumps inside the boat. We had a jib wrapped around the hole. And then the fire and rescue [units] deployed what I would categorise as two ‘airplane-style’ life rafts that we wrapped underneath the bow of the boat and inflated. That really stopped the bleeding, from that moment on.”
Analysis shows the hydraulics had only minor damages, major concerns lay with the electronics of the boat. But, the syndicate has brought all spare parts from the United States to Auckland. Now a two week window of hard work begins.
“This can be fixed, we have the skill in the room to do that,” Hutchinson told his team hours after disaster struck.
“Hopefully they can weave some magic in the shed this next week or so,” he says.
How it happened
Patriot capsized in a strong gust of wind while leading around the final mark of RR2 Race 3 against Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli. All team members onboard were quickly accounted for by the teams on-the-water safety personnel and declared safe. But the racing yacht was damaged during the incident forcing the team to stabilise the boat and keep it afloat before a long tow back to shore. The boat made it back to shore at 10:45 PM NZDT thanks to a joint effort between the team, event and local authorities, as well as the other three America’s Cup teams who rushed in to help
“First and foremost we need to recognise the heroic effort everybody in the Auckland community who came to rescue Patriot from despair,” says Hutchinson. “In particular the local authorities, the police, the fire services, the Coast Guard and finally the competitors Emirates Team New Zealand, Ineos Team UK and Luna Rossa who were spectacular.
“If you think about our family, our sailing community, it was awesome to see the show of support. We didn’t see this one and we will live to fight another day. So I think from here you have to acknowledge the really huge support of all the competitors and what they did for us, and that without them there, when it happened, I think we would be in a much different scenario today, I had the boat going to the bottom.”
It was a long night for the sailing and the shore teams of American Magic; a night spent entirely on evaluating the full extent of the boat damage and on planning the rebuild programme for the immediate future.
Back on water soon
Hutchinson confirms that after a full examination of the hull and its internal systems, the team’s confident they will be back sailing soon. American Magic will default this weekend’s round robin racing to be ready for the Prada Cup semi-finals on January 29 with the boat preferably on the water days before for testing.
“The beauty of our team is that there is a high level of resolve, and I think we’re going to see over the next eight to ten days the boat to be rebuilt, she may not come out of the shed that pretty, but she’s going to come out the shed to get back into racing. I would like to go back sailing before the semis, and not straight into it, but the team is committed to it and when you think about what all the teams have had to endure to get here, to deal with some of the things that we’ve had to deal with really over last three years, it would be a bit of a mistake not to give everything that we had to get the boat back out on the race course and in good working order.
“We have a realistic timetable and great support from the Auckland maritime and boat building community to help us.”
“We have a great support from all the teams, everybody has offered up their services to get Patriot back on the water, which again, as competitors here, I’m enjoying the time we argue with each other about things that are in a race and sailboats, and we argue about the things that needs to be done and we all try to get a point across.
“But at the end of day you can’t come across better sportsmanship and generosity than the teams that we have around us, and it’s the sincerity in the world, they’ve extended their facilities for us to rebuild Patriot and in that regard we are in very strong situation. We are going to the plan to get the boat ready and I think the easiest part of it is probably rebuilding it; the hardest part is getting electronics on the inside up to speed. It’s day 45 and Patriot’s been incredibly reliable but yeah there’s a lot of work that goes into that and if you have concerns or worries, it’s dealing with the gremlins inside the boat.”
“I don’t know much about what happened,” says Ben Ainslie (Ineos team UK) who had a hugely successful couple of days. “I’ve seen a video of the manoeuvre and it’s just horrific. You don’t want to see that happen to anyone. I think everyone is OK which is the primary concern.
“We go out there and race hard against each other but this is a sporting contest and we want everyone to be safe and we want everyone to be racing. I feel for those guys, for Dean, Terry and the rest of the team and I hope they are able to sort things out and get back on track.”