[Source: Oracle Team USA] With a little more than a week remaining in the year, the focus for ORACLE TEAM USA hasn’t changed. All eyes have been on 2013 for months, for years, with the same goal in mind: defending the America’s Cup in San Francisco next September.
Ask any member of the team their New Year’s resolution and it likely involves winning the Cup. Or more immediately, it’s sailing ORACLE TEAM USA 17 again.
“The capsize has definitely been a setback,” said ORACLE TEAM USA general manager Grant Simmer. “We have lost a lot of sailing time and a lot of time for the team to figure out the new boat, which will be difficult to recover. We’re a sailing team, and it’s not great to be watching your competitors sailing when we’re unable to – that’s been tough. But, all of the team has really focused on fixing the issues, fixing the boat and getting back on the water as soon as possible.”
When the team’s AC72 pitch-poled in San Francisco Bay on October 16, the schedule changed. The wing was in pieces, the pod beat up, the hulls damaged from both water and as a result of the wing breaking apart.
Instead of waiting until the end of the year to reflect, the team found itself evaluating the program a couple months early.
“We’ve used the time to really reassess the entire program, to be more realistic about our planning, to be careful not to try to do too much, but to do everything that’s important and critical to development,” Simmer said. “We’ve become more mindful of the risks.”
The boat was dismantled – beams disconnected, systems removed – and the broken wing stripped down to salvageable pieces.
Work began immediately, and two major boat build projects were soon underway at the team base at Pier 80. Repairs of boat 1 began side-by-side with the build of boat 2.
“We’re very grateful for all of the guys here who have had to dig deep to make this all happen,” said Mark Turner, ORACLE TEAM USA shore team manager. “The repairs of boat 1 certainly haven’t been the easiest of tasks to accomplish, and the list wasn’t small. That’s all been going on in parallel to building boat 2. So, there’s been a lot going on here, just as there’s been a lot going on in New Zealand with getting wing 2 built. Both places – here and in New Zealand at Core Builders Composites – have been going along at a good clip.
“The entire shore crew has pitched in and done things they’re not really accustomed to doing, whether it’s helping with the repairs on boat 1, composite work, putting together flaps for wing 2, or helping out with boat 2’s assembly process,” Turner said.
The second AC72 wing was already under construction, so timeline on completion was adjusted. That wing is scheduled to arrive to San Francisco early in the new year.
“After the capsize, the first step was assessing the extent of damage,” Simmer said. “Clearly we had almost totally lost the wing. Luckily we had another wing in production at that time, and so we accelerated that process. With the platform we found there was quite a lot of water ingress in the hulls and the areas where the boat had suffered damage. So, we’ve repaired all of that, and the platform is currently going back together.”
Composite repair work has been completed and beams reattached. As the team heads into a much-needed holiday break, the work list on boat 1 will be whittled down.
At the start of the year, “it’s all going to happen pretty quickly,” Turner said, with hydraulic systems, wench systems, nets and more going back in place. The new wing will arrive and testing will commence.
At the same time, boat 2 construction remains full steam ahead.
While the schedule may have changed, and plans adjusted, all have remained clearly focused on 2013. All are anxious to get the first AC72 back on the water. And, all have the same goal in the new year – to win.
“The team has really had to stand up to take on the extra work on getting the boat fixed, and they’ve responded fantastically,” Simmer said. “You end up with more resolve at the end of a process like this. That’s true for this team, and I think we will be stronger because of it.
“We’ll be out sailing again at the beginning of February in our repaired and modified boat. We’re looking forward to a long list of testing and development that will ultimately lead us to the Cup. It’s going to be a busy and exciting year for all of us.”