What does the capsize and near sinking of American Magic's Patriot mean for them and what do they do now?
There is a natural tendency whenever there is a major mistake or calamity to fall into the "blame game" and to spend time trying to figure out who is at fault.
In the media, we fall into this mode very quickly and the tendency to speculate and vilify those who may have been responsible is an unfortunate approach.
Spending energy and focus on the "blame game" does nothing to help fix the problem and get the team back on its feet. It certainly does not help to repair the boat and get back racing again. It can also fracture a team and turn its culture toxic.
What American Magic must focus on, and be very disciplined about, is to work together as a team to resurrect their race yacht and get her and themselves ready for the Prada Cup semifinals starting January 29.
Forget Round Robins three and four. They don't matter now. Leave Ineos Team UK and Luna Rossa to fight it out for being the top qualifier to go directly into the finals.
They have 10 days until the semifinals. That should be enough time to get Patriot back out there and race-ready.
Overnight, since arriving back at their base at 10.30pm the American Magic team will have been conducting a systematic damage assessment. From this they will create a priority work list and they will get to work.
Obviously, the hull damage needs to be repaired. This is a significant job because the damage is in a structurally important area immediately in front of the port-side foil arm.
To me the hole looks to have been caused by something large and heavy letting go inside the boat and punching out through the hull as it crashed back onto the water surface immediately prior to the capsize. The hole is too "neat" to have been caused by the force of the hull impacting the water.
My guess; a hydraulic accumulator tank that provides hydraulic oil to the foil cant arm systems or the battery pack that powers them. They are very heavy, and if what was securing it into the hull let go in the crash back onto the water after Patriot launched airborne, then that is what has punched through the hull.
The fact that Patriot spent around two hours submerged after the capsize will have caused multiple issues. The inside of these AC75s are incredibly complex. They contain both mechanical and hydraulic systems and, most significantly, multiple electrical and electronic systems. It's here that the biggest challenges lie.
Electronic systems and saltwater do not mix well. The systems aboard these AC75s are not things you can purchase "off the shelf". They are bespoke systems designed and fitted by each team. They control almost everything from communication systems, sail and rig adjustments, foil adjustments, and data read outs. Without functional electronics you cannot sail these yachts.
Many of these systems on Patriot will need to be replaced. I am sure they will have some spares, but it will not be as simple as a change out from the saltwater damaged component and a "plug and play" replacement.
American Magic's first AC75 Defiant is here in Auckland at their base, but she has been decommissioned and many of the parts will have been taken off her and fitted to Patriot. I do not think going back to Defiant is their best option. It will likely take as much work as repairing Patriot and Defiant will not be fast enough to be competitive anyway.
The good news? Patriot showed she is fast in the higher wind strengths. In addition, the semifinals are likely where American Magic would have ended up being at the end of these round robins anyway (given the 4–0 start from Ineos Team UK). So, the pathway for American Magic is no different.
Win the semifinals (a best of seven race series) and you get a shot at the Prada Cup and becoming the challenger for the 36th America's Cup.
Their situation is not ideal, but it is doable, and what a story that would be.
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.