Capsizing AC72 presents more danger than AC45 for Oracle Racing

Mike Koozmin/The S.F. ExaminerAssessing damage: The Oracle Racing crew watches as the AC72 which capsized Tuesday is hoisted out of the water at Pier 80 on Wednesday.

As the hulls of his 72-foot catamaran dug into the waves on San Francisco Bay and the boat began to tumble stern over bow, America’s Cup champion Jimmy Spithill of Oracle Racing thought only about his mates and how they’d come out of the scary crash.

Spithill had capsized a 45-foot version of the fast catamaran before, but the 72-footer that flipped Tuesday is more powerful and carries a bigger crew.

“You’re a lot higher in the air,” Spithill told The Associated Press by phone on Wednesday. “You’re 70 feet in the air. My biggest concern is there are a lot more of your teammates on board. And really, until you know everyone is accounted for and safe, that’s probably the worst part of the experience.”

The boat, being tested for the 34th America’s Cup next year, carried 11 crewmen, a designer and two extra sailors. All were wearing crash helmets and life vests.

It took several hours for the syndicate to bring the boat to shore after it was swept by a strong ebb tide more than four miles past the Golden Gate Bridge. The boat turned upside down and was towed that way back to the team’s base at Pier 80, arriving about 1 a.m. Wednesday.

Spithill said the boat appears to be in relatively good shape considering what it went through. The boat was lifted out of the water Wednesday afternoon and the shore crew was going to wheel it into a shed to assess the damage.

Initial reports said the 131-foot wing sail was destroyed. Spithill said it was badly damaged but thinks it can be fixed. He said the syndicate was still recovering pieces of the high-tech wing on Wednesday.

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