Sunday, August 18, 2013

Seaworthiness: America's Cup first race debacle

Emirates/Team NZ reaching in the second LV Cup race
There really is no denying it: the first race of the Challenger finals for the right to try to take the Americas Cup was a debacle.  Sportsmanship demands  seaworthiness. For sailors, as for all seamen seaworthiness is the objective of racing, of seamanship, and of design.  The first race of the Challenger finals saw both New Zealand and the Italians suffer major damage.  Prada broke down moments after the start and withdrew.  Emirates/TNZ nose-dived, throwing two crewmen into the San Francisco Bay.  Rescue teams fetched them out, and the damaged boat finished, uncontested, and shorthanded.  A debacle.

Capsizes and equipment failure are an acceptable part of the sport, as every dinghy sailor will tell you.  What makes the AC different is that the equipment has failed so early.  Seaworthiness was defined by the great admiralty judge Learned hand as "ability for the service undertaken".  The T.J. Hooper, 60 F. 2d 737 (2d Cir. 1932)  By that measure these AC 72's should not be raced because they are "not fit for (their) intended purpose", as the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals defines the term.
For independent thinking by a sailing master and photographer follow Stephen Lirakis.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I believe that in the rush for speed above all else, they neglected to sea trial these flying catamarans enough to ensure they could get through a race without breaking. Utterly high tech, with myriad systems interdependent, and only the ightest weight material; there wasn't enough thought given to potential seaworthiness ( esp. In the windy & choppy waters of SF Bay with the forces involved at these unheard of speeds) nor the great benefit of structural strength & simplicity over complexity which appears lost in the race to go fast at any cost. These AC 72’s are an unfinished (under)design(ed) disappointment.

In the last America's Cup. A completely dominating trimaran giant Dogzilla, with the kinks worked out, beat Bertarelli's Swiss Cat without a single memorable breakdown or up on either boat in any race. Would that they had managed to do the same prior to this racing.