“In 30 years of racing I’ve never seen anything like that,” an incredulous Ben Ainslie said.
Despite three decades in the sport, the skipper of Great Britain’s Land Rover BAR was equally as shocked as onlooking fans when Emirates Team New Zealand capsized in spectacular fashion.
Just a few seconds into the fourth America’s Cup semifinal match-up between the two teams, Team NZ’s catamaran rose up and fell forwards, leaving some crew members in the water and others suspended precariously above it.
“Most importantly everyone is fine,” Ainslie continued. “It’s the first time we have sailed in this much wind. It’s full-on and it’s mind-blowing.
“All of us sitting here are not going to pass criticism, these boats are incredibly hard to sail and these things can happen.”
Team New Zealand helmsman, Peter Burling, admitted afterwards the incident “was fully our error” due to the crew “trying to get off the start clean” and catch Land Rover.
The capsize meant Ainslie’s Land Rover team were awarded the point, bringing the semifinal back to 3-1 after Team NZ’s victory in Tuesday’s first match-up saw the team race 3-0 ahead in the first to five contest.
Wind conditions in the lead-up to the race were pushing the upper safety limit of 24 knots (27.6 mph) – sometimes blowing above it – and the capsize resulted in at least one of the crew falling overboard.
“I was very thankful when I was sitting up top to be able to look out back and see all their heads above water,” Burling said.
“We’ve all got a few bruises and cuts and bits and pieces, but nothing major.”
Though the damage to the AC50 vessel initially looked severe, Burling later sounded confident the crew would have it race ready for the resumption of action Wednesday – weather permitting.
The fairings, which help streamline the boat, were completely ripped off by the force of the boat’s fall into the water, while there was also significant damage to the wing sail.
However, strong winds forecast for Wednesday mean racing may not go ahead and will give Team NZ and extra 24 hours to repair the boat.
“I don’t think the wing will be a big issue at all,” skipper Ben Ashby said. “Obviously we won’t have a spare and if we do have another issue, we are up against it then.
“But fingers crossed, that will work out OK.”
In the other semifinal, SoftBank Team Japan won the day’s two match-ups to lead Sweden’s Artemis Racing 3-1.
The winners of each semifinal progress to the challenger final, with the victor taking on defending champions Oracle Team USA for the America’s Cup.