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Oracle catamaran sinks in San Franciso Bay

Published: 2:54PM Wednesday October 17, 2012 Source: ONE Sport/Newstalk ZB

Oracle's huge America's Cup boat has capsized in the San Francisco harbour, leaving damage strewn across the water.

The AC72 catamaran was put up on its end in 25 knot winds and eventually tipped over with pieces of debris now floating in the water.

Nobody was hurt, but the boat is a write off.

New Zealander and Oracle crewman Brad Webb was on the catamaran when it flipped and later spoke of how he and the rest of the crew were fortunate to escape without injury.

"I'm physically well and so is everybody else which considering the situation is the best we could ask for," Webb told ONE Sport as the Oracle crew recovered from their ordeal.

"It's not in good shape," Webb said of the boats condition.

"We got caught in a pretty wild ebb tide, got sucked out the gate and ended up in the potato patch outside of the Golden Gate (Bridge) and with some pretty wild swell and wind against tide and swell against tide.

"It was pretty rough out there. Eventually the rig obviously broke and the platform went face down and the rig pretty much broke up and broke away from the boat."

The capsizing puts Oracle back a number of months with the team now be scrambling for a second boat although Webb admitted the full extent of the damage would not be realised until the boat was fully recovered.

"From what we can tell the platform itself, meaning two hulls, beams, and spine are still in OK shape but she's got a night of towing ahead of her to come back inside and get alongside the dock so it's kind of hard to tell what shape she'll be in by the time we get her back."

Webb was hesitant to lay the blame for the incident in the hands of the Oracle team saying a full review of the incident is required before they can fully understand what caused the boat to capsize.

"We'll be able to go back through the data and figure out whether it was a mechanical problem or whether it was human error or whether it was just a lot of breeze and a lot of ebb tide and we got caught out and she went over, and it could be a combination of a number of things, so until we really analyse the video and analyse the data we're not really going to know.

"It happened quite quickly although in saying that most of us had time to hunker down into our cockpits.

"It went over reasonably sedately, which accounts I think for the lack of injuries, although there were a few guys clinging to the nets and were lucky to get away."

'Formula one' of sailing

The use of the huge catamarans had encountered criticism from many who believe the boats to be unsafe, yet Webb likened the risks of sailing the 72-footers to racing formula one cars.

"The whole idea to go into these boats was to make it more extreme. Even from the outset with the 45's we knew things were heading in an extreme direction.

"Americas Cup is the top of sailing, it's supposed to be the formula one of sailing, and just like with the formula one races, cars crash and people get hurt, so this is what we were trying to do with sailing and with these boats.

"The boats are supposed to be so hard to sail, so challenging to sail, that even the very best in the world have problems. That was where we wanted to take it and I think we can all agree we're there."

Webb then disagreed that the use of the catamarans needed to be rethought, saying it was just a matter of sailors becoming accustomed to sailing them.

"No, I don't think so. You always get this with a new class where everybody's learning how to not only engineer and build them but also sail them, and we're not learning to sail them in calm areas, we're learning to sail these boats in big breeze and on the San Francisco city front."

"It's like we've gone from racing go-carts to racing formula one cars and we are just trying to figure it all out.

Oracle were planning to race their two AC72s off against each other in the coming weeks.