America's Cup: Near-capsize whisker away from $120m Cup disaster

By Dana Johannsen

Team NZ skipper Dean Barker thanks divine intervention for saving the boat and rescuing the campaign.

Despite missing out on the point on offer, Dean Barker was simply relieved that the incident didn't cost them any more than that. Photo / AP
Despite missing out on the point on offer, Dean Barker was simply relieved that the incident didn't cost them any more than that. Photo / AP

Half a degree. In the words of Team New Zealand skipper Dean Barker, that was how close his team's $120 million America's Cup campaign came to ending in tatters of carbon fibre on San Francisco Bay after a heart-stopping near-capsize in yesterday's race 8.

Trying to defend a narrow lead over Oracle Team USA up the first beat, a miscued tack from the Kiwi team saw the boat tip dangerously on its side, its windward hull lifting two storeys into the air.

Left to the mercy of the laws of physics, the boat heeled at a dramatic angle, hanging there for what seemed like minutes before slowly righting itself.

Had NZL05 tipped another half a degree more they would have reached the point of no return, according to Barker. "I think we were as close as we possibly could have got without the boat going on its side," he said. "We must have had someone looking down on us."

By the time the team got their boat under control, Oracle had surged to a 200m lead on the third leg, and cruised to their second win of the regatta after their narrow eight-second win in race 4. The Cup defenders have now paid off their two-point penalty imposed by the international jury and any further wins will be counted on the right side of the ledger.

Despite missing out on the point on offer, Barker was simply relieved that the incident didn't cost them any more than that. "We made one mistake and it not only cost us the race, but it obviously came very, very close to costing us a lot more than that."

The team were remarkably calm and collected following the race, confidently taking the start-line for race 9.

There was no sign of nerves from Barker as he won the start and hurtled down the first run at a shade over 47 knots, before the race was called off early in the third leg due to high winds.

Team NZ tactician Ray Davies said at no point did the crew talk about using their "postponement card", as Oracle did on day three following their fourth heavy defeat. "We didn't consider going back to the base for a cup of tea and a lie-down. We knew there was nothing wrong with the boat and it was just a timing issue on board, which is very easy to resolve."

Of the heart-stopping moment on board, Barker later joked: "I was thinking, 'Well, this isn't going to be too hard to exit from here', I was on the leeward side [the hull that wasn't in the air]".

- NZ Herald

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