and then there were six
Little America’s Cup holders Fred Eaton and Magnus Clarke had a shocker on the water this weekend as they trained for next month’s LAC in Newport when a squall came through and capsized their brand new Defender, Canaan. Meanwhile, Steve Clark has renamed his Challenger, which hit the water last week looking good. Here’s the crash story from Magnus, and plenty more news and photos in the thread.
Yesterday AM we set up Orion and Canann for a sail and some two boat testing. Fredo and I on Canaad and Robbie and Dan or Orion. We knew there were some squalls in the forecast but nothing too heavy from the sounds of it so off we went.
On leaving the harbour there was some nasty chop right at the channel entrance with the breeze seeming to be about 13 or so knots. Hogan in the tender said there was less breeze but not a big deal either way, so we proceed offshore to some flatter water. Had a good session going up and down a few times a couple of miles at a time. Things were going pretty well. We had a few big black clouds come down over the course with some more pressure, so we sailed around those.
Eventually we decided to head in and beat a bigger cell to the city. We thought we could get to the harbour where it wasn’t too choppy and the French guys could have a go inside on the boats. Not a good idea to start them in this chop.
Well we sailed a few miles North then gybed East to the channel along the island. The pace was picking up the whole time, we were taking it as slow as we could and still doing 16-20’s. Orion was about a mile behind us and we were happy to see them taking it slow. As we approached the spit we paced the Lake Ontario 300 crowd who was sliding downhill just off the city. Once we got to the spit we had to execute another gybe as we were out of water. So it was flat and getting breezy by this point but no big worries, we put the helm over, popped the wing and blasted off on port straight towards the channel. Now things were getting choppy again and crowded with 4KSB’s and all manner of dinghies. We were almost making the channel so we decided to slide low to avoid another two gybes in a busy channel. The pace is picking up and the waves steeper.
Finally as we got to the mouth of the Eastern Gap we were following a Bene 50. They were heading in as well on Port, the same as us. no problem, we’d slide to leeward of them once inside the channel. We’re now doing 20, with the wing flat against the shrouds and nowhere to ease out, two hulls down blasting through the back of the chop.
I look up to see the Bene spin out in a puff to their left. No problem, we’re going to his right, another hundred yards and we’ll be in the channel, flatter water and we can head up and have room to breathe. Another puff, I’m leaning back to hold the edge of the tramp and Fred is right off the transom. Then the Bene continues his spin out and crash tacks and ends up heading back almost towards us. No worries, Fred slides a little deeper, we’re almost by the lee now and moments from getting past him and into safety. But alas, the behemoth has his jib still pegged to windward and is now bearing away uncontrollably hunting us in a crowded channel. We’re now doing 22 and more pressure hits. The Bene lays down further as we try sliding even further to the lee, there’s no hope of gybing out of this right were we are with our bows in the back of a wave every 5 seconds and the wing completely barn doored.
One last blast,,,,and,,,,we’re done. both bows go down the mine in a big hard puff. My eyes are just forward as I desperately am leaning back trying for the back beam. Then I lose it, sliding forward on the tramp feet first. On the way down I know this means the unthinkable in a flash, the wing is gonna be gone, just try not to eat carbon or get killed. Green water back to the beam with the wing accelerating forward the platform at 45 degrees into the water. I manage to grab the mast step on the way by the wing so I won’t get mowed down by the boat. My feet hit the water so hard my shoe gets blown off my foot. I am lifting my head up to get one last breath when I see Fredo go airborne, again, over my head, way way way over my head, I see him long enough that I can watch him cannonball into the water 40 feet away from me at the tip of the wing. I thought well at least he’s clear.
The wing hits the water about the same time I do so I cannot hear anything. Just as fast the boat pops up out of the water and flips over on one side. [email protected]$)($%*)!!!!!. Then it gets weird. I am hanging in my harness from the wing just above the water. I had been strapped in acting as a running backstay and I’m still plugged in. I desperately try to get unhooked but I cannot lift myself off the hook. The boat starts downhill at 5-6 knots. With the tramp up there and now 30 knot gusts coming through we’re picking up steam. I decide I better stay with the boat as the channel is Chaos now. The tender goes and retrieves Fredo while I try to figure something out and fast. With the tramp heading downhill and the wing up, it’s not too bad, the wing is mostly in tact, if we can get this under control, we might save it. Then the next hit comes. One good waves lifts the tip of the wing and it starts to fly, very slowly, almost floating at first and then a gust picks the whole thing up and flings the boat upright.
I think, "Fantastic, I might save this" As the boat comes up it spins around and heads almost head to wind. I am still plugged into the trap so it picks me up to and I land on the tramp. I throw myself as far forward as possible off the front beam to get the bows down, then I’ll go for the tiller.
Oh Fuck, one more puff and the whole boat blows over backwards. Enough of the top of the wing was damaged that the drag just killed it. That’s when I head the nastiest carbon crunching I have heard since they pulled the BOR mast out of the water in SD with a forklift. The trailing edge hitting the water at speed was the end of it. The boat flips on its side again. This time I am trapped under the hull with my legs wrapped around god knows what. A quick near drowning and I get out of it. I duck under the hull to the dagger board side and find Antoine clinging to the bow in the water.
He’s got the tow line with him from the tender and works at getting it onto the bow near the forestay. He finally gets that on and we get the tender to go into the breeze slowly as we’re only a hundred yards from the lee shore. We have a quick discussion about options and take a breath.
Meanwhile Fred is on the radio to Orion, I see them cruising slowly down the South side of the outer harbour with a partially cacked wing, the clew is broken on the flap. They are trying to sort out where to gybe in some flat water to make for the inner harbour.
Back on board we have the tender go a little faster up wind. By now we’re watching large sections of wing float off to leeward through the channel to the beach. As we move upwill the remains of the wing start to clear the water. There no way we can cut if off easily at this point and I am just thinking we have to save the platform, the wing is toast but Canaan is OK so far. A few more feet uphill and I manage to stand up on the hull and grab the bottom of the tramp, a few good tugs and we pull the boat upright.
Antoine climbed on board as the boat even with a portion of a wing started to accelerate. He helped me up and then grabbed the tiller. In a few moments we were towing through the channel and to the club. The breeze was still on and the boat still was doing 12 knots or more without the tow line taught.
We dragged the whole show back to the dock and pulled her out. By now we had sent another tender out to retrieve Orion. Despite their best efforts, Orion had a broken tiller a broken flap and serious control issues. As soon as they got back to the dock we dropped Orion’s wing first as there was still serious squalls blowing through.
Subsequently we talked to someone who had sailed past us in the channel right before we killed it they had reported a 41 knot gust less than a KM from the death zone.
Later in the day some nice folks at St James Town YC called us to say they had retrieved some of our wing. We popped out to find out upper #3 in only 2 pieces, which was encouraging.
So a big thanks to Antoine for literally jumping right in there, Ben and Hogan for tender support, the guys at SJYC for getting #3 for us, Irwin and the boys for on shore help and as always. most of all, Fredo for making it all possible.
Now the big push is on to get the new Canaan wing out of the shop in the next week and functional. Then we have to fix the 06 wing which will now go on Alpha instead of Orion.
Unfortunately this now means 6 boats for the event. There is a slim chance that Robbie could stitch that wing back together in time for the event, but it’s a long shot. So we’ll see how that all goes.
We all knew this was the risk of sailing these boats and in retrospect it would have been prudent to head in after we saw the first squall. But C’est la vie. Full credit to Dan and Robbie for bringing home Orion upright and mostly in one piece.
For a few kilometers of the trip home I doubt the leeward hull would have even been visible. It was the worst possible conditions for that boat and they did a great job all day.
Good job boys.