Peter Burling’s Emirates Team New Zealand suffered a major capsize in their second Louis Vuitton America’s Cup Challenger Playoff Semi-Final race of the day against Sir Ben Ainslie’s Land Rover BAR. The British team’s Skipper called the dramatic day “Certainly the most exciting and exhilarating racing I’ve ever been involved in.”
The capsize appears to have been caused by a mistake by Peter Burling and his Kiwi team which lead to their boat digging its nose deep into the water, lifting its stern and capsizing, leaving three of the teams’ sailors clinging on inside the cockpits on the starboard hull while the other three were ejected into the water. All six sailors were quickly accounted for as safe and unharmed and the team’s boat was righted and taken back to their base in the America’s Cup Village.
The capsize was not the Kiwis’ first issue of the day. Even before the first race of the afternoon they had to return to base to fit their spare wingsail after an unknown problem was discovered on the wingsail they were intending to race with.
The whole team pulled together and managed to fit their replacement wingsail, and get back out in time for the first race of the day with Land Rover BAR.
However, the biggest talking point of the day was Emirates Team New Zealand’s capsize.
“Firstly, and the most important thing for us, is that all the guys on board are safe and with no major injuries,” said Peter Burling. “It is definitely a relief when you see them falling off that you can look back and see their heads above water and that they’re all fine.
“We sustained quite a bit of damage to the boat but the shore guys are assessing the damage and we feel we will be able to repair it and get back out and into the action.
“The first race was a massive effort for the whole team. We managed to fit the second wing to the boat before the race and it was amazing to see the whole team come together and put their efforts into the boat.
“To be able to reward them with a win was incredibly pleasing because it was certainly a whole team effort.
“In the second race, as we tried to accelerate away from the start line we got really high on the foils and then and then came down really quickly. We are not sure what caused the capsize yet but we will go back and assess it.
“As a group of New Zealanders we are incredibly resilient, that first race showed that, and looking forward I think that first point could prove crucial.
“We’ll bounce back from this, get the boat back to 100 percent and get back out there.”
In reply, Sir Ben Ainslie reflected on what he said was the most exciting day of racing in his life.
“It was an amazing day of sailing. Certainly the most exciting and exhilarating racing I’ve ever been involved in, in my life,” said the Land Rover BAR helmsman.
“We were pleased with how we sailed as a team because I think all of the teams were struggling to get around the course. Ultimately one loss and one win, considering the conditions, we are happy with that.”
On the incident in their second race of the day, which resulted in Peter Burling and Emirates Team New Zealand’s capsize, Ainslie added, “It appeared to be a slight misjudgement from Peter but in these conditions it isn’t easy, but all of us sitting here are not going to pass criticism because these boats are incredibly hard to sail and these things can happen.
“Thank God, most importantly, everyone was safe and okay and I’m sure they will be back out tomorrow.”
For Sir Ben Ainslie and Land Rover BAR, day one of the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup Challenger Playoffs Semi-Finals was disastrous. A damaged wingsail in race one forced the British team to retire in their opening race against Emirates Team New Zealand. They were unable to replace the wingsail in time for the second race, handing their rivals another victory and giving them a 2-0 advantage at the end of the first day of Semi-Final action.
On Semi-Finals day two the British team returned to the racecourse aiming to cut the deficit to their Kiwi rivals and they started strongly, beating Emirates Team New Zealand across the start line and seizing the early advantage.
A slight nosedive on leg 2/9 halted their initial momentum but Ainslie and his team recovered quickly to keep the team ahead through gate 3.
However, Land Rover BAR were punished for another mistake on leg 5, allowing Peter Burling to seize the initiative and take the lead for the first time in the race.
Ultimately, that mistake was to prove pivotal as Burling held his nerve in the final stages and crossed the finish line 24 seconds ahead of his rival, taking another step closer to the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup Challenger Playoffs Final.
The tension levels were already high but then went stratospheric in the second race between Emirates Team New Zealand and Land Rover BAR.
In their second race of the day, Land Rover BAR won the pre-start duel over Emirates Team New Zealand and the Brits were away and heading for the first mark.
However, attempting to recover from their poor start, Peter Burling’s team paid the ultimate price for pushing their boat to limit, suffering a spectacular capsize which ended their race and put three of their sailors into the water. The dramatic scenes ended the contest as the officials raised the black flag, resulting in the race victory being awarded to Land Rover BAR.
After the race, Burling confirmed that all six sailors were unharmed, bar some cuts and bruises, and that the team’s shorecrew were immediately starting work to repair their damaged yacht.