Crew members of the New York Yacht club Young America team were feeling fine with their three-boat-length lead over the Japanese entry Asura when the hull of their yacht USA-53 suddenly suffered a massive rupture just abaft the mast. The yacht immediately flooded with water and would undoubtedly have sunk on the race course if a quick response effort had not managed to supply pumps and flotation bags. Young America’s crew immediately abandoned ship, only to be put back aboard as the yacht sank less quickly than originally thought, apparently as a result of reserve buoyancy in the bow and stern sections. The vessel was secured to a towline and assisted into port, where it was hauled out. The crew was forced to use its reserve vessel USA-58 for the remainder of the Louis Vuitton Cup, the qualifier to America’s Cup races, which was still underway at press time.
Young America’s 78.5-foot composite hull, designed by Bruce Farr and built by Goetz Custom Boats, was described as having “jack-knifed” as it rounded the final upwind mark on Nov. 9. Cracks originated below the waterline on each side of the hull and stretched to the yacht’s sheer. As the hull shipped water it took on the shape of a banana, its ends lifting clear of the water. Conditions on the race course included 20-knot winds and four-foot seas.
The Japanese entry, Nippon Challenge, also suffered damage in the next race against America One; its mast came tumbling down Nov. 10 on the second downwind leg. Wind speeds had built throughout the race and peaked at 25 knots prior to the vessel’s rig failure.
The Italian entry Prada had the lead in the Louis Vuitton Cup Round Robin 2 at press time. A challenger to New Zealand was expected to be decided by early February for the America’s Cup series in February and March.