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12 September 2004, 06:49 pm
Three Boats Blown Over In Marseille Storm
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America's Cup Act One

Following the passage of a violent storm and high winds through Saturday night, the racing boats of BMW ORACLE Racing, TEAM ALINGHI and EMIRATES TEAM NEW ZEALAND were blown off their cradles and are lying on their sides on the J-4 pier.
The incident took place at 02:40, early on Sunday morning. There were no injuries, only the boats have been damaged.

Gusts of over 65 knots of wind were measured at the time of the incident.

The three damaged boats were the most exposed to the prevailing wind direction. The three others, K-CHALLENGE, LE DEFI and TEAM SHOSHOLOZA, suffered no apparent damage.

Technical teams are currently evaluating the damage and assessing the situation. Each of the three boats will be lifted and placed on its cradle this afternoon, in preparation for shipping to Valencia on the Dockwise ship at the beginning of next week.

At noon, Michel BONNEFOUS, the CEO of AC Management, along with a senior member from each of the three affected teams, met the media.

Michel BONNEFOUS, CEO of AC Management: It was a very violent storm that was on the J-4. All the teams want to participate in the next Act in Valencia. But of course they still have to assess the damage, and only they can tell you about their plans moving forward.

Grant DALTON, syndicate head, Emirates Team New Zealand: I think that ACM have done a superb job here. This is in no way anybody's fault...this was the big fella upstairs(pointing at the sky).

Emirates Team New Zealand has probably taken it the worst. We can see, even without lifting it up, that it's going to be impossible to fix it in time for Valencia, if ever. It took the edge of the container right on - and there's the edge of the container stuck inside the boat at the moment. NZL-82 will not sail in Valencia. It's just not possible. We don't really have other options frankly. We do have another boat, but it's still being re-built and re-fitted in New Zealand, and that's 12 000 miles away...So at the moment...we won't be in Valencia, but then again, you wouldn't write Kiwis off that easily frankly!

We knew there was a storm coming, and we have a tent in our base, so I suggested we take it down, but our weather people said, 'no, it's not that much wind, it's just a lot of rain.' So it was a bit freakish. If it was a gust of wind then it was a serious gust of wind because these boats are 25-tonnes, and you don't just blow 25-tonnes over, so it's speculative on my part, but it might have been a tornado. I mean you would need hurricane force winds to blow these boats over, but there's almost no other damage around, so if it was windy enough to blow those boats over, you would expect to lose everything here. It must have just been something that touched down for an instant, and then...gone.

Grant SIMMER, Co-general manager, Team Alinghi: We're working to bring the boat back upright and put it back into its cradle. The damage is quite extensive on the port side of the boat. We are unable to assess the damage yet in the keel structure. Our plan is to get the mast out this afternoon, get the boat loaded on the Dockwise ship in the next day, on schedule, and get it back to Valencia. We'll get the boat into our shed in Valencia, keel off, upside down, and do a really thorough assessment of what the damage is. As Chris suggested, these boats are not designed to be dropped - that's not part of the design criteria - so the extent of the damage will be hard to determine.

Our second boat is an option, but at the moment our preferred option is to look at repairing SUI-64 over the next couple of weeks. We'll make that decision once we're in the shed in Valencia. The other boat hasn't sailed since Auckland. It's completely stripped and there's several issues relating to using that get that boat ready is a major exercise. But one way or another we'll be there on the starting line in Valencia.

Chris DICKSON, skipper and CEO of BMW ORACLE Racing: It's clearly a major setback not just for our team, but for the three teams involved. It's a bizarre appearance obviously. These boats are very fragile...they're obviously not designed to be dropped on their keels. For our boat the keel is about three metres away from the cradle. It's had a major shock, there's a hole in the concrete underneath. We know there's some internal damage...This is a major for all three teams.

We have second boat. We're fortunate that ours is in Valencia. It will take us a week or ten days to get that boat race ready, but we hope in a week or ten days to be sailing USA-71 and to be ready for the Valencia Louis Vuitton Act. The Marseille regatta has been a huge success. We don't want this mishap to cloud what a great regatta this has been and we need to move forward together with the other teams and AC Management to make the best out of the situation. We're grateful it happened at night. No people were involved. There we no injuries. The boats can be replaced and repaired and it's fortunate no one was injured.
AC Media (As Amended By ISAF News Editor)
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