Oracle Racing’s 72-Foot Catamaran Capsizes in San Francisco Bay

A 72-foot catamaran built by Oracle Racing to defend the America’s Cup capsized in San Francisco Bay during a training session, destroying its mast and wing sail.

The boat, launched eight days previously by Oracle Corp. Chief Executive Larry Ellison’s sailing syndicate, nosedived and flipped forward yesterday in about 25 knots of wind while accelerating into a downwind turn, according to a news release sent by the team. There were no injuries.

The boat’s 132-foot wing sail was destroyed and the crew worked until this morning to save the boat, towing it back to the team’s base at Pier 80 to assess the damage. Skipper James Spithill thanked the U.S. Coast Guard and Oracle’s shore team for their help.

“There’s no question this is a setback,” he said in the release. “A strong team will bounce back and this won’t stop us from winning the America’s Cup.”

Tactician Tom Slingsby said the team was still learning what to expect from the 72-foot boat, the first of two built by the team to defend the 160-year-old trophy, which it won in 2010 by beating the Alinghi syndicate run by Swiss billionaire Ernesto Bertarelli in two straight races.

Teams in the 2013 Cup will all race similar catamarans, powered by carbon-fiber wing sails and capable of speeds exceeding 30 knots.

“We didn’t know what was going to happen with the new boat,” Slingsby said. “When the nose went down, the wing hit and a few guys went into the water. We were unsure if the wing would snap, so we all climbed off the boat. Luckily, everyone is accounted for and no one was hurt.”

The Cup is named for the schooner America, which defeated a fleet of British yachts off the Isle of Wight in 1851 to capture the 100 Guinea Cup, deeding it as a perpetual trophy to promote “friendly competition between foreign countries.”

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