Young America seeks approval for 2nd boat

Despite nearly sinking, challenger presses on


November 10, 1999|By Peter Baker | Peter Baker,SUN STAFF

Young America, the New York Yacht Club's $40 million challenge team for the America's Cup, said yesterday it intends to continue in Round Robin 2 of the challenger trials despite nearly sinking one of its $4 million boats on Hauraki Gulf off Auckland, New Zealand.

The team planned to apply today to the International Jury for a measurement certificate for its second and newer boat (USA-58) and expects to be sailing by Friday, said Young America spokesman Jane Eagleson.

The substitution would be allowed under regatta rules if it is determined the team's damaged racer cannot be repaired sufficiently to compete.

"Under the rules we have to forfeit the first race in the new boat," said Eagleson, whose team's first match in USA-58 would have been against Fast 2000 from Switzerland.

Today's racing was pushed back a day when winds on the gulf reached 25 knots in the morning and were forecast to reach 45 knots in the afternoon.

Yesterday sailing conditions were within the regatta guidelines, race officials said. Seas were generally about 3 feet and winds were about 17 knots, although there were occasional gusts to 20 knots.

But while leading on the third windward leg of its race with Nippon, Young America (USA-53) hit a series of 5-foot waves as the crew turned for the mark.

Forces pulling up at the bow and compressing the mast caused the side deck to collapse, according to spokesmen for Young America. Then both sides of the boat folded inward.

"There were just a couple of very, very big waves very close together, and as we started turning, we started going off one wave and hit the next -- and that's when we stopped being able to race," said Young America skipper Ed Baird.

No one was injured and the 17 crew members abandoned ship and were picked up by support craft. A few returned to the boat to set pumps and buoyancy bags and recover sails and gear.

With pumps running and crew working feverishly, USA-53 was towed to shore.

Young America's racers were designed by Farr Yacht Design, Ltd., of Annapolis, which is considered one of the world's leading designers of racing yachts, and built by Goetz Custom Boats in Rhode Island, one of the world's leading boatbuilders.

A spokesperson for the Farr group said yesterday designers and engineers are working with Young America to determine a cause. The spokesperson declined to elaborate.

The near sinking again brought attention to the fragile nature of the 75-foot International America's Cup Class racers. Throughout the first month , there have been mechanical and structural breakdowns.

However, Young America's collapse is the most complete so far and has spurred designers and structural engineers to say that perhaps some changes in design and structural parameters are needed to ensure stronger boats.

Among those who have called for scantling rules in IACC boats is Olin Stephens, the 91-year-old naval architect who designed eight America's Cup winners in the J-Boat and 12-meter classes.

Scantling rules were used in J-boats and 12-meters to ensure the boats were strong enough for the conditions in which they could expect to race.

"I'm old-fashioned and I think there should be a scantling rule," Stephens, a design consultant with Young America, told Quokka Sports a few days ago.

The only sinking in the 148-year history of the America's Cup occurred in 1995, when OneAustralia broke in half and sank in less than 2 minutes during challenger trials off San Diego. The Australians were allowed to recommission their second boat and resumed racing two days later.

Andy Dovell, part of the OneAustralia's design group in 1995 and now with Hawaii's Abracadabra 2000 cup team, said the two Australian boats were "very different in structure" and the possibility of the second boat sinking was slight.

But the two Young America boats apparently are "pretty similar," Dovell said in a story on the Louis Vuitton Cup website.

"Typically, this type of failure is very difficult to isolate -- it's usually not just one thing," Dovell said. "I would target finding the problem and not worry about sailing again in Round 2."

Young America was in second place behind Italy. and would give up 4 points for each race it may miss in this round. In Round 3, victories will be worth 9 points.

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