Set back for Alinghi

As SUI64's rig breaks during testing

Sunday December 8th 2002, Author: James Boyd, Location: Australasia
During last minute testing for Monday's start of the Louis Vuitton Cup Semi-Finals Team Alinghi had to cut short their outing when at approximately 10:45 local time, SUI-64 sustained a broken mast while sailing in approximately 23 knots of wind. The team was conducting downwind two-boat testing between SUI-64 and SUI-75 in freshening conditions and regular squalls.

The team reacted quickly and efficiently to secure the top of the mast and remove the mainsail from the broken section and both Curtis Blewett and Dean Phipps made the ascent of the rig to sort out the mess.

Working 26m above deck, they removed the mainsail and secured the fractured part of mast as quickly as possible, which had broken approximately 6.5 meters from the top of the rig. This was no mean feat in the conditions and sea state.

It took two hours for the sixteen sailors to clean up the deck before SUI-64 could be towed back to the base.

With the boat back at the base the maintenance team have taken charge of replacing the mast as the sailing and design teams convene for discussions and analysis to insure the best repairs and adjustments for the new mast.

Mast Engineer Pete Lawson commented, "this is just one of those things that can happen - obviously it could have happened at a better time but at least it didn't happen during racing tomorrow. We have a contingency mast of the same spec so it's just a case of replacing the broken one."

Alinghi's design team co-ordinator Grant Simmer added: "When the top of the mast broke, the crew did a great job of stabilising the rig especially given the conditions and thankfully no one was injured. We ended up quite a long way out towards the Coromandel peninsula as we had to run with the wind until we had cut away the mainsail and secured the rig. It's disappointing as we were planning to use this mast for our first race against Oracle tomorrow however we have a back-up rig which will be stepped this afternoon and we will be ready to race on schedule tomorrow."

It will be interesting to see if this incident forced Alinghi to use their newer boat SUI75 during the semi-finals.

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