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November 5, 2009

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Home » Sports » Sailing

BMW Oracle's trimaran snaps in Pacific Ocean

THE 60-meter mast on the monster trimaran that will represent the United States in the America's Cup came crashing down during a sail on the Pacific Ocean on Tuesday, snapping in two as it hit the rear beam.

None of the crew were injured in the mishap, which happened some 30 to 50 kilometers off Point Loma, BMW Oracle Racing helmsman Jimmy Spithill said after the 27-by-27-meter boat was towed back to its downtown berth at dusk.

"We're obviously pretty fortunate," Spithill said. "The boat itself, the actual platform, is in relatively good shape. The most important thing is getting back on shore with all the guys, and the crew safe."

BMW Oracle Racing, owned by Oracle Corp's Larry Ellison, is scheduled to face two-time defending champion Alinghi of Switzerland in a best-of-three showdown beginning February 8.

The American syndicate has two other masts. The one that broke on Tuesday is believed to have cost US$10 million. A tender towed the biggest section, about 45 meters, back to port. There's a chance the mast can be repaired.

Spithill said the boat was on starboard tack when the carbon-fiber mast fell across the aft beam.

"It happened so quick. It obviously was very, very violent, quite a big shock when it went," Spithill said. "But really, everyone was calm. The support crew acted well and were able to get things all under control."

Spithill said he wasn't sure when the boat will be back in the water. He said the syndicate will look at on-board video and load data to figure out why the mast came down.

Spithill doesn't think it will be more than a temporary setback. The shore crew began working on the boat as soon as it was back in its berth.

"Obviously we've got to re-look at the program, but I think we're a strong team," Spithill said. "It'll be a real test for the team but I've got an idea we'll be able to bounce back and be ready in February."

The spar is under tremendous loads as it supports a mainsail that's twice as big as a Boeing 747's wing.


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