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Capsizes cause America's Cup safety concerns

Published: 7:14PM Wednesday October 10, 2012 Source: ONE Sport

Oracle's spectacular capsize on San Francisco Bay in the America's Cup World Series has again raised concerns about how the sailors would cope if a bigger catamaran turned turtle at speed.

A number of the AC45 catamarans currently being raced in the World Series regattas have capsized, but can be quickly righted and end up largely unscathed.

However the much larger AC72 boats that will be raced in the America's Cup next year travel at much higher speeds and could do a lot more damage.

"I don't want to capsize a 72. I just do not want to do that. But I am not saying a team won't do it," Oracle skipper Jimmy Spithill told ONE News.

Team New Zealand's AC72 has already been seen in action and can reach speeds up to 40 knots using a technique called foiling, which allow it to glide along with both hulls above the water.

Artemis skipper Terry Hutchinson said that crew would have to take more care when sailing the bigger boat.

"The manner in which you capture that speed it's going to be very difficult because the boats are very close to the edge," Hutchinson said.

"Early days will be very scary."

Oracle's team co-ordinator Ian Burns agreed and said teams were taking special measures to ensure safety when sailing the big cats.

"t is scary, there's no team out there who takes these risks lightly. I know that some of the teams are carrying bottles of air so if they get trapped under the boat in a capsize they will be able to breathe and stay alive for those few minutes before help comes," he told ONE News.

With AC45 crews already wearing body armour and crash helmets, Spithill drew on motor racing to explain why the competitive juices lead to boats capsizing.

"You see professional race car drivers crash cars and why do they crash because they push hard and they are trying to get everything out of the cars," Spithill said.

"We are no different. We push as hard as we can but we have to be careful. Because you can't fix an AC72 as quick as you can fix an AC45 and obviously you can hurt people."

There's no doubt the new boats will bring a new dimension to risk management when the America's Cup regatta gets underway in San Francisco next September.