The America’s Cup folks today released a story today about last week’s towing incident by Artemis Racing that damaged the hull and delayed their christening – Skipper Terry Hutchinson talks about James Bond-like “spare air” canisters in case crew is trapped underwater during an accident:
Artemis Racing skipper Terry Hutchinson said the team made a “mental mistake” last week that led to the postponement of the planned christening of its new AC72.
Artemis Racing was towing its red-hulled platform under the Bay Bridge in calm conditions when team members heard popping noises. Concerned by the noises, the team concluded the towing exercise and returned the platform to the team’s base in Alameda.
Hutchinson said today that the platform was unintentionally put in a position of risk because of the way it was being towed, with the foils down and without the wingsail.
“It’s no more complicated than we shouldn’t have been doing what we were doing,” said Hutchinson. “We had the boards down and at certain angles. At certain speeds the boat’s going to do things that need the opposing forces in place. We didn’t have one opposing force, primarily the wing, in place.”
Hutchinson said that the boat was being towed at 15 knots boatspeed. He wouldn’t elaborate on the extent of the damage, but likened the occurrence to a bad call on the water.
“It was a mental mistake on our part, like trying to cross a starboard-tacker at the top mark and knowing you can’t make it,” said Hutchinson. “The worst part is that we set ourselves back yet again. But this is unfamiliar territory and only highlights the importance of being meticulous.”
Hutchinson said that the team hopes to step the wing on the platform for its first sail sometime next week before adding, “As we’re learning with these boats, one little hiccup is weeks of carbon work.”
Whenever the launch occurs the crew will be well prepared for extreme circumstances such as last week’s dramatic capsize by ORACLE TEAM USA that played out on live streaming video on the web. A few days before the capsize Artemis Racing held a safety training session at its base.
Crewman Julien Cressant, a certified diver, organized a session where sailors were trapped under an overturned platform and had to make their way out from under the trampoline while being pushed underwater.
“We jumped into the water upside down and were held down and pushed down underwater,” Hutchinson said. “We had to access our spare air and crawl 14 meters underneath the net from one end to the other.”
Each Artemis sailor is equipped with a personal air canister for surviving such a situation, but Hutchinson said that the exercise highlighted the need to keep calm in an extreme moment.
“It highlighted how good or bad some people are in the water and the importance of the buddy system,” said Hutchinson, who also said that he isn’t a great swimmer. “Fingers crossed we never get into one of those situations, but the more comfortable we can be the better chances we’ll have of getting out unscathed.”
Hutchinson said that the air canister provides about 10 to 20 breaths of air, “depending on how much you’re hyperventilating,” and the amount of positive buoyancy the sailors wear makes it difficult to swim deep and out from the overturned platform.
“We’re wearing a PFD and a wetsuit, which is a lot of flotation,” said Hutchinson. “Once you hit the water you have to have the presence of mind to grab the spare air, get it in your mouth and accept the fact that you’re going to take in a little water… and not panic. Then you have to shimmy your way down 14 meters of trampoline to get out.
“It seems surreal,” Hutchinson continued. “It just highlights that we have a bit on.”