When American Magic spectacularly capsized the AC75 Patriot during the Prada Cup on Sunday, the severity of the incident took a moment to sink in.
After all, it wasn't the first time the team had tipped over in their America's Cup preparations, having done so several times in their scaled-down model as well as once in their first-generation AC75, Defiant.
So, it wasn't until skipper Terry Hutchinson noticed just how much water the boat was taking on where he was positioned that he realised that the vessel might have sustained considerable damage.
Soon after, the team's chase boat pulled a piece of carbon from the sea, and relayed to a member of the crew that the boat might have a hole in it.
"That raised everybody's eyebrows very quickly," Hutchinson recalled.
"It was pretty hairball. I was trying to eject out of my spot and we ended up with knives out, cutting ourselves out and making sure the first priority was getting the crew out.
Fortunately, we're all out probably within a minute and under the mainsail; it's unnerving to say the least."
Sure enough, the vessel had been punctured in the incident, which occurred around the fifth gate as the team rounded the markers to begin their final leg in their race against Luna Rossa – which they looked on track to win.
As they rounded the gate, the broadcast indicated they were travelling at 45 knots when they were hit by a strong puff of wind which lifted the vessel toward the sky before slamming it back down. While the shell of the boat was damaged, American Magic were able to get out several key pieces of hardware with little to no damage.
"The boat, when you look at it in slow-mo, popped quite a wheelie and the leeward foil came out of the water and we got a reasonable amount of the bow out and when the boat slammed down – it's fine if it slams flat on its keel, but when you land on the side on a flat panel, basically the structures inside the yacht just guillotined the panel and out it came.
"We ended up with 16 pumps inside the boat, we had the jib wrapped around the hole and we had basically two airplane-style liferafts that we wrapped beneath the bow.
"We were fortunate we got both batteries out of the boat; we were fortunate that all the hydraulic fluid inside the yacht stayed inside the yacht – it's a closed system. So, there's things that will make getting back on to racecourse easier for us to deal with and we're thankful that none of that stuff ended up in the Gulf."
However, with the AC75s being heavily reliant on technology – much of which is based inside the hull – the team will have to replace a lot of it, including the foil cant system which controls the foil arms.
The team do have their first-generation AC75 with them in Auckland and are expected to take the FCS out of that, as well as any other bits and pieces they might need to get Patriot back on the water.
As well as their own resources, Hutchinson said all other challengers had opened their doors to American Magic in terms of helping to provide resources where they could to ensure the challenger remained in the competition, as had members of the Auckland maritime community.
Hutchinson said there were a lot of hours of work ahead for his team which would mean they would miss this weekend's racing, but he was confident they would be back on the water in time for the semifinals on January 29-31.
"I think if I insisted that we race over the weekend, I'd have to manage a mutiny. In all seriousness, it'll be a big effort to get the boat sailing for the semis and we have a realistic timetable, we have great support from the Auckland maritime boat building community to help us, we've had great support from all the teams; everybody has offered up their services to get Patriot back on the water."
Heading into the Cup racing?
• Give yourself plenty of time and think about catching a ferry, train or bus to watch the Cup.
• Make sure your AT HOP card is in your pocket. It's the best way to ride.
• Don't forget to scan QR codes with the NZ COVID Tracer app when on public transport and entering the America's Cup Village.
• For more ways to enjoy race day, visit at.govt.nz/americascup.