NetComposites
Airtech

Team New Zealand mast breaks

02 March 2003

Team New Zealand's 110-foot carbon-fiber mast snapped in two during a squall and tumbled into the Hauraki Gulf on Friday, the second -- and most spectacular -- breakdown in four races for the two-time defending champion.

Team New Zealand's 110-foot carbon-fiber mast snapped in two during a squall and tumbled into the Hauraki Gulf on Friday, the second -- and most spectacular -- breakdown in four races for the two-time defending champion.

Alinghi sailed alone around the rest of the six-leg, 18.5-nautical mile course to take a 4-0 lead in the best-of-nine series.

``We're running out of things to break,'' skipper Dean Barker quipped. ``We just have to take this on the chin again and move on.''

The Kiwis won the last two America's Cup matches -- both by 5-0 sweeps -- with design breakthroughs, but they have been crippled in this cup because of breakdowns. A boat that was thought to be fast this time because of a radical hull appendage called a ``hula'' has instead fallen apart twice in front of a shocked nation.

Sailing the upwind third leg in heavy seas left over from two days of gale-force wind, the 80-foot carbon-fiber NZL-82 buried its bow into two successive waves less than halfway through the race. America's Cup sloops are under tremendous loads, and as NZL-82 came out of the second wave, the $500,000 mast broke about 30 feet above the deck and dragged the rigging over the left side of the boat.

Syndicate head Tom Schnackenberg said a fitting broke in the rigging about 40 feet above the deck, basically stripping away support for the one-ton spar. ``When I saw the boat hit those two waves, I thought, 'Oh my God, something's got to give,' and something did,'' Schnackenberg said.

The crippled yacht was towed back into port with the top of the mast still sticking into the water at an odd angle. A saw was brought on board and a crewman began cutting into the tangle of wires. In Race 1 on Feb. 15, the black boat began taking on water in choppy seas, and the stress on the boat led to gear failure that forced the Kiwis out of the race just 25 minutes after the start.

Team New Zealand snapped two masts during training last year.

``We are sorry for the sailors onboard NZL-82 today,'' said Jochen Schuemann, Alinghi's German-born strategist. ``A dismasting is certainly one of the worst things that can happen in a race. Team New Zealand has bet a lot on their technology and either they pushed this card too far, or they didn't have enough time to test their findings.''

Alinghi went on to make history on Saturday, when they won race 5 to take the America's Cup back to Europe for the first time in 152 years, and to a landlocked country at that.






comments powered by Disqus