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NZ Out of America’s Cup Opener

  • Sunday, 16th February 2003
  • Reading time: about 2 minutes

Team New Zealand’s 10-race winning streak in the America’s Cup came to a shocking end, water pouring into the cockpit contributing to the failure of the carbon fiber boom.

The two-time defending champions were forced to drop out of the series opener on Saturday after their boat broke down twice less than 20 minutes after the start, handing the victory to the challenger, Alinghi of Switzerland.

Water began pouring into the leeward side of the cockpit of NZL-82 from the rough seas as the boat heeled against the wind. That apparently contributed to the back end of the carbon fiber boom shattering and the jib blowing out and flapping wildly against the mast. Just like that, the Kiwis’ winning streak, dating to 1995, came to a shocking end.

Team New Zealand boss Tom Schnackenberg estimated that six tons of water flowed onto the 25-ton boat. That extra load might have stressed the boat, leading to the other breakdowns. In a breeze of 19-20 knots, and gusts to 26 knots, the end of the boom broke with a loud bang 10 minutes after the start, keeping the Kiwis from controlling their mainsail, which is the size of a 747 wing.

The jib blew out a few minutes later when a titanium ring holding it to the bow shattered. Barker immediately turned downwind, but it still took several sailors to control the flapping sail and wrestle it below decks. They hoisted a new headsail and it blew out as well, because the groove that holds the sail to the forestay was broken.

It was the first time a yacht had retired from an America’s Cup race since 1920, when defender Resolute damaged its rigging and pulled out, handing the opening race to Thomas Lipton’s Shamrock IV. Resolute overcame a 2-0 deficit to win 3-2.

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