American Magic are confident they will be competitive in the Prada Cup semi-final, despite the havoc wreaked by their capsize 10 days ago.
Their campaign looked in tatters on that Sunday evening, as Patriot came close to sinking during a three-hour salvage operation, before being towed back to base with a sizeable hole in its bow.
Against considerable odds, the boat has been rebuilt and restored and could go for its first sail on Wednesday.
The New York-based syndicate are still viewed as underdogs, given the amount of damage sustained to the interior of the boat, which houses the vital electronic systems.
But grinder Sean Clarkson has high hopes for the upcoming contest against Luna Rossa.
“It’s a fantastic boat and we have a very good bunch of sailors,” Clarkson told the Herald. “I don’t see anything different when we put it back in the water. It will be business as usual.”
“The boat is not at all compromised; it is as good or better as it was when we dipped it in. It’s up to us to go and deliver. I would take our boat any day over our opposition, so it’s exciting.”
It won’t, however, be easy. American Magic have done everything possible, since first assessing the damage to the boat using ultrasound scans.
The gaping wound in the hull has been fixed, with the assistance of Team New Zealand experts, but replacing the electronics system across the boat – and having only one or two days to test functionality on the water – is another challenge altogether.
“There is always a chance of gremlins,” concedes Clarkson. “When we launched the boat, there was always a few days of finding little issues here and there.”
“But the guys have been checking and checking and running the boat every day for a while now and we just have to trust them. Hopefully we get some time in the water so we can run through all of the systems and everything is tickety-boo. It won’t be for lack of trying.”
Clarkson remains in awe at what has been achieved, since that dramatic Sunday night.
“Normally if you said you were going to do this to a boat you would allow a few months, but what has been done in a week is amazing. It’s full credit to our guys and the community, and the other teams.”
During that period the sailing team have been focussed on reconnaissance of the other teams, analysis of the round robin races and simulator work.
“It’s obviously frustrating but you can’t dwell on that,” said Clarkson. “You have got to maximise the time, learning, understanding the racecourse despite not being there.”
“We’ve spent a lot of time looking at the opposition, understanding what they do well and what we can learn.”
Clarkson, a veteran of seven previous Cup campaigns, dating back to 1992 in San Diego, has been impressed with the leadership of skipper Terry Hutchinson and the team hierarchy since the capsize
“The message was ‘Let’s get into it’,” says Clarkson. “It would be easy to say this is not possible or we are screwed but there was never a moment’s hesitation from [Terry] or any of the team principals.”
While there was a review of the freak incident and they have tried to absorb lessons from the capsize no one was pointing the finger.
“As a leader, he [Hutchinson] is incredibly loyal to his boys,” says Clarkson. “He was like, `okay, it happens, shit happens, and we have to back our boys and move on’. Don’t look back.”
“It would be easy for a lesser team to implode, to start questioning or blaming people but it was okay boys, here we are, let’s get on with it.”
When Hutchinson addressed the entire team in the early hours of last Monday morning, he was quick to shift the focus.
“His line at the end was [something like] ‘This is going to make a hell of a story when we win the America’s Cup’,” recalls Clarkson.
As distant as that may seem now, they might take heart from recent Cup history.
“We have seen good examples,” agrees Clarkson. “Team New Zealand in Bermuda, they damaged their boat pretty significantly and they got back, and they won it. And Oracle in San Francisco destroyed their boat (before the regatta) and they got on with it and won the America’s Cup…it is possible. It’s a setback and we are back into it.”
Heading into the Cup racing?
• Be aware that traffic will be busy, and parking will be very limited.
• Give yourself plenty of time and think about catching a ferry, train or bus instead.
• Make sure your AT HOP card is in your pocket. It’s the best way to ride to the Cup.
• For more ways to enjoy race day, visit at.govt.nz/americascup.
Source: Read Full Article