All are safe after a broken wing appendage onboard SoftBank Team Japan’s AC45 Sport ended testing yesterday as the sailors pushed the upper wind limit of the platform on the Great Sound in Bermuda.
The broken wing – belonging to the team’s next generation America’s Cup Class competition yacht – suffered a significant fracture in the lower trailing flap causing the entire lower portion to detach completely.
“We were pushing the boat hard today in 20-23 knots of wind”, said Skipper and CEO Dean Barker. “We were doing an upwind run with Oracle Team USA and heard a loud bang as the lower flap of the wing broke and blew off the back of the main element. Fortunately there was no injury to any of the crew and we managed to get the boat back to the dock and avoid any further damage.”
One of only a few testing days to date in this Cup cycle that have seen wind speeds at the top of the design threshold for these boats, the breakage creates a unique learning scenario for team’s designers as they fine-tune their heavy-air wing control systems for the next America’s Cup.
“Any issue like this is always good to happen now as opposed to next year”, continued Barker. “As we learn more about these boats and push them further up the wind range, the loads get increasingly higher. Understanding how hard we can push is a key part of being successful next year.”
With less than eight months until the start of the 2017 America’s Cup Qualifiers, and with build times already forcing teams to finalize their design parameters, there may not be many more opportunities for team’s to test at these extreme levels.
“As with any issue like this it is important to look through all the footage and data to correctly analyze the problem. Jumping to a wrong conclusion early can lead to making some bad decisions.”
The SoftBank Team Japan shore team will now have plenty of sleepless nights ahead of them as they pull double duty in the wing shed.
They’re now tasked with both prepping the team’s backup wing for testing this weekend while also building a new lower appendage for the America’s Cup Class wing as quickly as possible.
“We are fortunate that we will be back out sailing by the weekend”, concluded Barker. “While we will miss a couple more breezy days the week, it is nice to know the program can continue without any significant loss in time.”