History repeats itself..

..when Oracle lose their keel again

Thursday November 15th 2001, Author: Sian Cowen, Location: United Kingdom
The latest in a series of technical disasters surrounding America's Cup boats took place yesterday in the Hauraki Gulf when the keel dropped off Oracle's training boat USA41.

At the time Oracle were match racing with their two training boats off Waikeke Island, 20 miles from Auckland's Viaduct Basin, sailing in just 15 knots of wind in what was described as "a fair swell" . Chris Dickson was at the helm of USA49 when the boats rounded up. After just two minutes of sailing upwind, a massive bang was heard on board USA49 and she immediately fell over on her side.

No one was hurt in the incident. Many of the crew perched themselves on the boat's topsides and some clung onto the boom which lay in the water as three Auckland coastguard vessels went to the stricken racing machine's aid.

As the boat lay on its side attempts were made to pump out enough water in order to keep the vessel from sinking. Once the flooding had stabilisied USA49 was towed to a barge in the lee of a nearby island where she was secured and taken back to Auckland.

Rescue work was hampered by strong winds, occasionally gusting up to 40 knots. No one was hurt.

This was not the first time that the crew onboard Oracle had to hang on for their lives. Last summer - almost a year ago to the day - Oracle lost their keel while training in the Gulf (see right). On that occasion USA49 last years keel incident in NZowner of Oracle Racing computer mogul Larry Ellison and skipper Chris Dickson were out on the boat when the 21 tonne lead bulb and fin broke away from the hull. On that occasion it took six days to salvage.

This time the crew were able to salvage almost everything, including the sails, although the keel has yet to be recovered and all the electronics were destroyed.

Assessing what caused the incident cannot take place until the boat is back at the Oracle base and the keel has been salvaged. But it must be concerning for the team as the sailing conditions were near perfect with average breeze and calm sea conditions.

This latest incident comes after an exciting two months for the America's Cup challengers in Auckland, which has so far seen dismastings on OneWorld and Team New Zealand yachts.

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