America's Cup: Oracle Racing Team's serious collision in AC45s

Oracle Coutts suffered substantial hull damage in the training incident

During training today on San Francisco Bay, Oracle Racing – Team USA’s two AC45s were involved in an accident that left one of the boats with damage to the port hull.

'We’re always trying to recreate the intensity of racing that rival challengers have with our own in-house racing,' said skipper Jimmy Spithill. 'Unfortunately, we get it wrong sometimes. If you push to the maximum, you accept there are going to be some bumps and crashes.'

'It’s not good,' said second helmsman Olympic Silver medalist, Darren Bundock, who was driving the boat that hit Jimmy’s. The damage to Jimmy’s boat (No. 5) means a forced end to the March training session one day early.

The incident occurred during maneuvers when Bundock tried to dip behind Spithill. Both boats had been luffing head-to-wind with Bundock to the left. But with the wind blowing a steady 20 knots and gusting higher, Bundock was unable to bear away and clear behind Spithill before hitting Boat No. 5 two-thirds of the way from the bow.

Oracle Coutts suffered substantial hull damage in the training incident

The sailors described the collision as a glancing blow, but the sharp bow of Darren’s Boat No. 4 put a deep crease into the hull of Boat No. 5. The ever-present support boat was quickly alongside and used a 5,000-liter-per-hour pump to drain the water from the breached hull, some of which will need to be replaced.

'It wasn’t as loud a bang as you might think,' said Will McCarthy, who dove inboard before the impending impact on Boat 5. 'It was more of a glancing blow.'

None of the sailors on either boat was hurt.

Oracle Coutts suffered substantial hull damage in the training incident

'You could see it coming from about 15 seconds out,' said Joe Newton, wing trimmer on the Spithill boat and sitting close to the impact point.

Today was the last scheduled day of training for the crews before breaking camp and preparing for the ACWS Naples (Apr. 7-15).

Coincidentally, a similar accident occurred at the end of a training session last June. The shore crew are guaranteed to take a wry view on incidents like this. 'This type of stuff always happens on the last day of practice. Or before a long weekend,' one said.

Oracle Coutts suffered substantial hull damage in the training incident