It was drama of the highest order that stands up to anything that we have seen in Formula 1 or any other high-octane equipment sport. The American Magic capsize yesterday, however, showed another side of the America’s Cup and it’s a quality that sailors recognise worldwide and a code that every racing sailor signs up to. It is the Fundamental Rule 1.1 of sailing in the International Racing Rules and states: “A boat or competitor shall give all possible help to any person or vessel in danger.”
As Patriot capsized, immediately an armada of chase boats was on the scene and this was quickly followed up superbly by all of the race teams lending every possible piece of support, equipment and manpower that they could muster to save the wounded American yacht. The New Zealand Fire Brigade came in with pumps and the Coastguard was on hand to lend assistance. Collectively, miraculously, everyone pulled together in American Magic’s hour of need and stabilised the lifeless, helpless, carbon goliath as it drifted holed and direction-less on the tide.
Amidst the shock and sheer sadness of the situation, it was also one of the most magnificent sights of human compassion and determination that I have seen in the America’s Cup and all credit to every single person who battled so tenaciously to save the vessel.
So often we get whooped-up into the rivalry of the Cup that it’s easy to forget that real people with real human feelings are involved. At one level this game is a cut-throat business played out by ruthless billionaires and swashbuckling athletes at the peak of their testosterone. But when it comes to it, it’s a human endeavour and remarkable when you get to see the Cup community come together as one. The sight of Pete Burling from Emirates Team New Zealand arriving on the scene and helping out folding sails says it all. This was the moment to put team dynamics and egos to one side and just throw everything at the unfolding, fast-moving situation. Brilliant.
Patriot was some 10 miles out from the safety of the base and with the light fading this was no easy task. Getting the boat to shore in one piece was a feat of seamanship and a very long, slow process. Thankfully she’s ashore now, early on Monday morning and the damage can be assessed and the sailors can rest. You can’t help but feel for the Americans. This weekend has been so tough and so demoralising for everyone involved. The hopes of a nation and the hopes of the fabulous and esteemed New York Yacht Club were on their shoulders and yesterday they were performing so magnificently in the actual race that this is such a hard blow to take.
My hope is that the team can get racing again and rise from the ashes, phoenix-like, from the depths of not only the Hauraki Gulf but despair. They have twelve days to the start of the Prada Cup semi-final series, I am praying for their sakes that it is enough time to effect the repairs and get back out there. What a story that would be.
Thankfully nobody was injured. The capsize was heart-stopping. Literally in the space of a few seconds, I think we ran through every possible emotion as watchers from 12,000 miles away. At first peel-off I genuinely thought they could save it. Then, almost in slow-motion, you could see the leeward runner jamming and as the boat catapulted out of the water like a Polaris missile, there was feint hope of saving the situation. I had my hands in the air then across my mouth, willing for the best but the inevitable capsize was a really hard watch. The situation that then unfolded was unbearable.
Thank you to my readers for messaging links to view the situation as the UK feed cut off and the official Prada Cup YouTube channel went off air. And a big shout out and well done to the excellent Live, Sail, Die Channel for streaming late into the evening on Instagram and Facebook as they miraculously kept their phone batteries from dying out on the water – great effort guys.
This is the hardest moment for American Magic. It’s a real test of everything the syndicate stands for and believes in. Everyone wants to see you back.
The story doesn’t end here.
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