The last time our two V5 ACC sloops USA 87 and USA 98 were on the water together occurred during the Louis Vuitton Trophy event in La Maddalena, Italy, in late May.
During Day 4, the French team Aleph and Italy’s Azzurra were dueling in pre-start maneuvers when Aleph, aboard USA 98, attempted to duck Azzurra but seemed to misjudge the amount of overlap – video replays show the bowman signaling all clear to the helmsman – and plowed into the starboard aft quarter of USA 87.
The collision crushed the bow of 87, rendering it unusable for the rest of the regatta. Additionally, USA 98 suffered damage near the running backstay sheave box that sent it shoreside.
USA 87 absorbed the brunt of the hit near the running backstay sheave box and stern compression bar, a strongly built area of the yacht. An ultrasound was required to ensure the carbon fiber laminates hadn’t come unglued.
Aboard USA 98, the damage to the bow occurred forward of the forestay bulkhead, so no integral structural was damaged. The piece does carry a bit of load, however, in the form of the spinnaker pole downhaul, which leads through the point.
The repair was fairly straightforward for the team’s expert boatbuilders, led by Tim Smyth and Mark Turner.
“We built a new section at our facility in Warkworth (New Zealand),” said Smyth. “The picture (above) shows half of the new bow on our five axis milling machine. We made two halves, glued them together and then shipped it to Cowes where the shore team bonded it to the yacht.”
That’s where Turner takes over the project. In about four and a half days the shore crew bonded the section in place and had it painted in familiar livery.
The shore crew took some heat in La Maddalena from other teams, who said they didn’t want to make the repair on site. The shore crew couldn’t make the repair until the insurance adjuster had examined the damage.
“It was a bit of a storm in a tea cup,” said Turner, the team’s long time shore crew manager. “It’s all fine that the competition criticized us, but we couldn’t do anything until the insurance adjuster viewed the damage. Our insurance would’ve been void. The other teams would’ve taken the same course.”