Oracle - Dickson speaks

Chris Dickson said his first thoughts were for his crew

Friday November 24th 2000, Author: Ed Gorman, Location: United Kingdom
Chris Dickson the skipper of the Oracle Racing America's Cup team has talked for the first time about the moment the keel on his training yacht suddenly snapped off as he was two-boat testing on the Hauraki Gulf on Wednesday (November 22nd). The boat in question was USA 61, one of the former AmericaOne hulls raced by Paul Cayard in the last Louis Vuitton series.

Dickson told the New Zealand Herald that, as the boat flipped on its side, all he thought about was his crew as they dived into the choppy water. "My first reaction was for the safety of the crew," Dickson said. "We did a head count immediately and, once everyone was accounted for, we swung into action to see if we could save the boat. We wished it hadn't happened but the team made the best out of a bad situation."

Dickson said the syndicate still did not know why the 21-tonne lead keel had fallen off the boat and they want to be sure the same thing will not happen to USA 49, the AmericaOne sistership, which was being helmed by Cayard when the accident happened. "Right now we have no idea what happened," said Dickson. "The keel broke off at the bottom of the hull - that's it. It's a setback - we're not going to be sailing two boats again this year. We won't sail the other boat until we know why this happened and we are confident that USA 49 doesn't have the same problem."

The AmericaOne yachts are being used by Oracle as trial horses until the syndicate builds its own new boats in 2002. The team does not have a spare keel and new one will cost around $500,000. The old one is currently sitting in about 40 metres of water and efforts will be made to salvage it. "It won't be going back in the boat, that's for sure. But we might use some of the lead in a new one," said Dickson. He added: "This is a secondhand boat - we bought it a few months ago - our design team didn't design the keel."

Oracle Racing is the first of the next generation of America's Cup challengers to be out testing on the Hauraki Gulf and some observers believe it has a virtually limitless budget. But Dickson denied this, saying they could not delve into a bottomless pit. "We have a budget to work to and we have to manage our time, money and effort - this will affect us," he said.

Meanwhile the Herald also reported the arrival at the Team New Zealand base at Viaduct Basin of Bertrand Pace of France, the world number one match racer. Pace has joined the rump at TNZ to work alongside skipper, Deano Barker. "I've had to wait three months for this, but I am so happy now I'm here," said Pace. "I cannot wait to steer the black boat," he added.

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