America's Cup: Grinders kept calm, carried on and saved the boat

By Paul Lewis, Dana Johannsen

The Artemis Racing AC72 capsized in May this year during a training excercise killing Andrew "Bart" Simpson. Photo / AP
The Artemis Racing AC72 capsized in May this year during a training excercise killing Andrew "Bart" Simpson. Photo / AP

The grinders were the heroes.

The grinders would say they are always the heroes but, in a stirring display of composure and discipline, they helped prevent a capsize that seemed certain to occur.

As Emirates Team New Zealand's AC72 flew its hull dangerously, impossibly high, Rob Waddell, Chris Ward, Jeremy Lomas, Derek Saward and Chris McAsey kept pounding on the handles desperately trying to prevent, in the words of tactician Ray Davies, a "multimillion-dollar disaster".

Veteran America's Cup sailor Craig Monk said that if he were in the same situation, he would almost certainly have abandoned ship.

Monk, who was injured in Artemis Racing's horrific capsize in May which killed British sailor Andrew Simpson, said having experienced first-hand what happens when things go wrong in the giant AC72 catamarans, he's not sure if he would have hung around to see if the boat righted itself.

"I thought they'd capsize for sure, they looked like they were well past that point," said Monk.

After his experience of the Artemis Racing capsize, Craig Monk says he would almost certainly have abandoned ship. Photo / AP
After his experience of the Artemis Racing capsize, Craig Monk says he would almost certainly have abandoned ship. Photo / AP

"Knowing what I know now [after the accident], I probably would have jumped off."

Few would have blamed the Team NZ crew if they had bailed while the boat was hanging precariously on its side.

But, even as it seemed that a capsize must occur, the grinders kept grinding, feeding the power to the giant, 40m wingsail which had not "popped" on a rolling tack.

Cambered the wrong way, it then acted as a wind magnet, sucking the boat over on its side in a near 45-degree angle.

Cool as you like, the grinders not only never left their posts, they rotated their handles, helping to restore power, correct the wing and regain the horizontal.

"It would have been a multimillion-dollar disaster had we capsized, but the guys kept their heads and we managed to save it," said Davies of the grinders' efforts.

"All the guys did a really good job of keeping their cool. If they'd have jumped overboard we would have capsized."

Or perhaps it was the urgent shouts of "hydro, hydro, hydro" (hydraulics) from Davies that left the grinders in no doubt about what was required.

- NZ Herald

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