Crash puts Ainslie challenge in doubt
Land Rover BAR are in a frantic race against the clock to repair heavy damage to their boat before the resumption of the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup Qualifiers tomorrow.
The British challenger’s boat suffered a hole in its port hull in a collision with rival Softbank Team Japan during the pre-start of today’s sixth and final race on the Great Sound.
It remains doubtful whether BAR will repair the damage before racing resumes tomorrow, with team skipper and principal Sir Ben Ainslie cutting a deeply concerned figure at the post-race press conference.
“Our boat is pretty badly damaged,” Ainslie said. “It’s got a sizeable hole in the port hull and actually it was a great effort by the team to get the boat around the course in the state it was.
“We were better off keeping foiling. We finished the race, kept the thing up on the foil all the way into the harbour and lucky we did because by the time we got to the dock, she was on the way down.
“It was unfortunate. We had a sideways slip just as Dean [Barker, the Team Japan skipper] came in and got the leeward overlap.
“When you’re pushing these boats as hard as we are, it’s inevitably going to happen from time to time. Thankfully, no one was hurt.
“Our shore team are fantastic guys and I’m sure they are going to do the best job possible to get us back out the water as quickly as possible.”
Team Japan’s boat was also damaged during the mishap.
“It was a pretty hairy moment at the time seeing their leeward hull landing on our boat,” Barker said.
“One of our grinder pedestal handles went through the side of their boat, I think, knocked all of the guys off the side and hit the steering wheel as well, so a little bit of damage.
“It’s the nature of the racing, as it gets closer and harder, and we’ve seen one collision — that’s part of the game.
“We have to assess the damage and are going to do everything we can to get the boat prepared for tomorrow.”
Oracle Team USA posted the day’s best record, winning their races against Groupama Team France and Emirates Team New Zealand to finish the day tied with BAR at the top of the leaderboard with three points each.
Jimmy Spithill, the Oracle skipper, was happy to get the positive results but admitted there is plenty of room for improvement.
“The boys are not happy with how we sailed,” he said. “A lot of things we need to sharpen up.
“But we came away with the two wins, that what’s important, and look forward to tomorrow.
“We had a few good ones [but] in these boats you’ve got to be consistent. You have one bad manoeuvre and that can be a lead change, and that’s exactly what happened, so we are going to go back and review both races.
“We were pretty average in our tacking today and anyone of our guys will agree to that. But we will learn that tonight and come firing tomorrow.”