America's Cup commentator Peter Lester has accused Oracle of foul play in forcing the challengers to race in unsafe conditions.

In the wake of Team New Zealand's dramatic capsize in more than 20 knots of wind, Lester - a two-time New Zealand yachtsman of the year - hit out at Australian race director Iain Murray.

Lester told Radio Sport host Mark Watson that he intends putting the heat on Murray in tomorrow morning's race briefing in Bermuda, but he also had Oracle Team USA in his sights.

He also hinted defenders Oracle, who in effect run the regatta, with Russell Coutts in charge, would be delighted at watching the challengers beat themselves up in rough conditions.

Advertisement

"In my mind [the wind speed] was above the upper limit, the boats shouldn't have been racing," said Lester. "The damage done to all the teams is substantial.

"I'm critical ... at the race management meeting tomorrow, I'll be asking some pertinent questions to the race director, Iain Murray.

"What the rules say is they can race up to 24 knots and that's a sample average wind, taken from eight minutes to three minutes before the start. When we were briefed before the regatta, Iain made it very clear to us he has the final say and, of course, safety comes into this.

America's Cup commentator Peter Lester. Photo/Photosport
America's Cup commentator Peter Lester. Photo/Photosport

"Clearly, today, the safety of the crew was really compromised. Our guys dodged a bullet, there are one or two bumps and bruises, and a few stitches, but someone could have been really badly hurt.

"The regatta has got off lightly."

Lester also alleged Oracle Team USA may be influencing Murray in his decision-making, although a change in governance structure for this event has separated race management from the event authority.

While the race director has previously answered to the authority - in this case, defenders Oracle - but Murray now officially reports to all teams.

None of the challenger helmsmen were publicly critical of Murray after today's racing, accepting that racing took place within limits they had agreed to. Lester was less forgiving.

Advertisement

"Where is it all coming from? Again the event authority ... remember Oracle are sitting in the shed over here," he said.

"What went on today, in my mind, Oracle will not be unhappy about.

"The challengers are out there, beating themselves up, doing damage to their boats. That does not help the challengers against the defenders, when it comes to the America's Cup and I think Iain Murray is accountable.

"I am fearful ... the forecast for tomorrow is for more wind than today. If that is the case, the forecast is for more wind or the same as today, they shouldn't be out there - it's dangerous."

Lester, who has been part of three America's Cup campaigns, is close to TNZ and has unprecendented access to their camp.

Reporting form the wing shed, he told Watson: "What's been impressive since the boat came in ... the boat builders and engineers are going through the boat to really make sure they are dealing with in terms of the repair.

"Talk about work, they are in for a 36-hour stint to get this thing back in one piece. You'll be amazed at what they achieve in a short time.

"There's a lot [of damage],) but a lot is superficial. The spectacular crash and the fairings falling off, it's all quite superficial.

"That's not their initial concern.

"What they are looking at now is the structure, how has that been compromised and if it has, what is the plan to rectify it? The wing is in bits, all the covering has been taken off the top third of the wing, and once it's all cleaned off and all the debris is off, it doesn't look as bad as I thought.

"All the daggerboard mechanism is exposed ... there must be probably 30 people working on the boat. Initially, they were quite sombre, but as soon as the doors were closed, within half an hour, the boat was all pulled apart.

"The people they employ are the best tradesmen in hydrodynamics, boat building and aero ... all the specialties you see on the boat. One of them said to me, if it doesn't kill you, you get stronger.

"What went on today was dramatic, but the real heroes in the next 36 hours will be this army working their butts off."

With questions now being asked about young helmsman Peter Burling, Lester said: "He is certainly a work in progress, [but] he's the right man for the job."

Lester believed the boat could be fixed in time for racing tomorrow, if needed.

"Maybe they would be fearful about going out there and having another catastrophe like today," he said. "Looking ahead, the forecast on Thursday, Bermuda time, looks perfect for racing and once this system moves through, it will be OK.

"All I'm seeing is a swarm of engineers and hydraulic people ... it's not just structure. Remember, there are those very very complex hydraulics and electronics system.

"None of that stuff you can buy off the shelf. It all has to be done in-house.

"Until the full evaluation has been done, it will be later this evening, before they have a full handle on what they are dealing with."

Measurers will oversee the repairs, which must comply with stringent class rules.