Team New Zealand's best-laid plans for a strong lead-in to this week's America's Cup World Series in San Francisco have come unstuck with the loss of key crew-member Glenn Ashby.
Ashby, the team's wing-sail trimmer, has flown back to his native Australia to recuperate from a rib injury suffered when the team's AC45 catamaran capsized in a practice fleet race last week.
It is a frustrating setback for the Kiwi team, who are targeting a strong showing in San Francisco after struggling at the venue in last month's opening round of the 2012-13 series.
With poor preparation cited as one of the key reasons for their flat performance in the first regatta, Dean Barker's crew arrived in San Francisco last Monday to give them plenty of time to better come to grips with the challenging sailing conditions.
"We tried to give ourselves a better lead-in to this event, but already we've had complications with injury," said Barker.
"Looking back we seem to have had injuries in every event since Naples [in April] and here we are again. Most teams are sailing with set combinations, so it makes it a lot harder when you've got guys coming in and out."
While Ashby, a multihull specialist who served as sailing coach for Oracle in their 2010 America's Cup win, is a big loss for the team, Barker said it was a good opportunity to build depth in the crew, with Adam Beashel joining the team for this week's regatta.
The skipper said it could take "some time" for new sailing combinations to click.
The team had an unscheduled rest day yesterday, after Energy Team France were forced to withdraw from practice racing. The French were lucky to sustain only minor damage to their AC45 catamaran when it drifted off its overnight mooring and ended up on the rocks.
The Kiwi team plan to be back on the water today with practice races scheduled with Oracle.
Having been "exposed" last month by their lack of understanding of the conditions, Barker said a lot of their build-up had been spent on learning the nuances of the venue.
Barker describes the course as a "very difficult sailing area", with strong tidal currents and fog.
This week's regatta will be the last opportunity for Team New Zealand to race at the America's Cup venue before the real action begins with the Louis Vuitton Challenger series in July next year.