Whack! Crash! Boom!
The America's Cup looked more like a Marvel action comic than a sedate yacht race for millionaires this weekend as boats broke, boats crashed and one was boarded by an uninvited sea mammal.
When it was over Saturday night, four were damaged badly enough that an international jury decided to give everyone three days to make repairs. The final day of racing in the first round-robin of challenger trials was postponed from today until Wednesday.
First, the AmericaOne team has repairs to do. Its transom was crunched to splinters in a hard collision in prestart maneuvering with Dennis Conner's Stars & Stripes. The damage was severe but AmericaOne skipper Paul Cayard carried on racing anyway and beat Stars & Stripes by one minute to improve his record to 7-1, tied for second-best with Young America. Prada leads the fleet at 8-0.
Stars & Stripes was at fault and was penalized by on-water judges, and Cayard said he did more damage to the injured craft by racing. But he said his crew was so angry at the incident, "We just wanted to beat those guys." Off they went on a 90-minute slog through choppy seas and 12- to 14-knot winds.
They were not the only victims. The 11 challengers had to wait nearly two hours for a breeze to fill and racing to begin. As they waited, Le Defi Francais was boarded by a porpoise that leaped from the water, landed on the bow and knocked a chunk from the spinnaker pole before sliding off.
When racing got under way, the Swiss boat FAST 2000 broke down as hull supports for the running backstays, which hold up the mast, gave way. FAST's crew doused sails quickly and retired.