Newsroom’s Suzanne McFadden looks at the process behind Emirates Team New Zealand’s repair in Bermuda after the ‘love-tap’ on Day 2 or Practice Session 5:
With a little cooking and round-the-clock devotion, Emirates Team New Zealand’s injured race-boat will be back on Bermuda’s Great Sound this weekend.
The team have worked through the night at their Dockyards base to repair the metre-long dent left in the port hull of their gleaming America’s Cup catamaran, having been given a “love tap” by Sir Ben Ainslie’s boat Rita. (His words, not theirs).
A dedicated shore crew of 25 are still working in shifts to complete the repair – building a makeshift oven, with tents and heaters, to “cook” the composites used to patch up the gouge.
Of course, this is not what they had planned to be doing, nine days out from the start of the Louis Vuitton challenger series, where any time stolen out on the water is considered precious.
But it is a reminder that this is the America’s Cup, where nothing is easy, fair or assumed. As the stakes get higher in just over a week’s time, the smashes will only get harder. And the tension and exasperation will only become more intense.
The fender-bender which has put Aotearoa in the shed came on what was shaping up to be a great day of practice racing for Team NZ. They’d had two strong wins over Ainslie’s British team and Groupama France, before young helmsman Peter Burling had Ainslie on the ropes in the pre-start of their second clash.
Ainslie, a four-time Olympic champion renowned for his aggressive tactics, was late to the start-line, and ran into the back of the Kiwi cat. Rita, sporting a damaged bow, also headed home early.
Back in Auckland, Mark Hauser, a director of Southern Spars – the company that built the New Zealand boat – happened to be on the phone to a member of Team NZ when the two boats collided. “They’d pocket dialled me, and I called back just as it happened,” Hauser, an America’s Cup veteran, says.
‘I don’t think [the damage] is too bad. The nice thing about composites is that they can be repaired. It will probably add a little bit of weight to the boat, but nothing too serious. They have a very experienced shore crew, and very good boatbuilders in the team, so it will all be fine.”
The repair started as soon as the boat came off the water yesterday, beginning with a “large grinding job”, Hauser explains. Depending on how deep the gouge was, they may have to repair the aluminium honeycomb core – which can be a tricky business – and then laminate the skin back on to it.
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by Suzanne McFadden