Yachting: Team NZ play down setback

By Dana Johannsen

Team New Zealand are confident they will be back on the water tomorrow after damaging their wingsail in a dramatic launch incident outside their base yesterday afternoon.

The team ripped a decent section of the skin on their wing - an extremely complex and expensive piece of machinery - after the leading edge of the sail clipped the side of the main building at the Team New Zealand base in the Viaduct Harbour.

But the team are playing down the severity of the incident, claiming the damage is relatively minor and more of an annoyance than anything else. The team plan to be back sailing tomorrow after a quick patch-up job.

The incident occurred as they were preparing to fit their wingsail to the platform of the AC72 catamaran in blustery conditions. The 40m wingsail - bigger than the wing of an Emirates A380 - needs to be delicately lifted into place by a crane and requires up to 30 personnel handling guide ropes from the ground.

A Team New Zealand spokesperson said that as they hoisted the wing, a gust of wind picked up the sail and sent it into the side of the three-storey building at their headquarters.

Italian team Luna Rossa, who have been training in Auckland over summer, suffered damage to their wingsail in similar circumstances earlier this year, which was repaired inside two days.

Although the damaged wing is a setback for Team New Zealand, it has served as a timely reminder of the fragility of the cutting-edge racing machines.

While their rivals have endured long stretches off the water, the Kiwi team have had a relatively smooth run in their preparation for this year's America's Cup in San Francisco, avoiding any major incidents.

Oracle's USA-17 had a three-month spell in the shed after suffering catastrophic damage to their wingsail when their boat capsized in rough conditions in San Francisco Bay last October, while Artemis have endured a series of setbacks.

Since re-launching their repaired boat six weeks ago, Oracle have made strong progress in their testing and development programme.

Oracle bowman Brad Webb said on Twitter that the team had another productive day on the water yesterday and expressed sympathy for Team New Zealand's predicament.

"Good day for us on SF Bay running drills between [Golden Gate Bridge and Treasure Island]. Sorry to hear about ETNZ's wing, broken carbon is never nice," the Kiwi sailor said.

- NZ Herald

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