Sailing: Americans race to reinforce boat

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The Independent Online
THE MINOR earthquake which saw the New York Yacht Club's $5m (pounds 3.2m) yacht Young America suffer damage during a Louis Vuitton Cup race against the Japanese in Auckland on Tuesday was still sending tremors around all the rival America's Cup syndicate pits in Viaduct Basin yesterday.

Race cancellations because of recurring strong winds allowed the other 10 to run special checks on their own yachts as the NYYC continued examination of the breakage and started reinforcing work on its second yacht, which it will substitute for the remainder of the current second round robin and probably for the third.

John Marshall, the syndicate's chief executive, said it will take weeks, not months, to repair the damaged hull, and Ed Baird, the boat's skipper, said it was important to make those repairs as part of the development and testing evaluation between the two yachts.

As in motor racing, the greatest worry is that what has happened to one piece of equipment will happen to another. "Basically, the structural layout of the boats is very similar and consequently we are concerned about the second boat," said Marshall. "The prudent thing is to build in some reinforcing, but in a way that it can later be removed."

The wind strength was not great at the time of the accident, although it is thought that shock compression loads can rise to 40 tonnes. Marshall dismissed thoughts of reducing even further the wind strength limit of racing, saying: "We have to raise our game to have a realistic chance of winning the America's Cup. Racing in tough conditions is part of that."

The challengers expected to conduct their series in stronger winds than they will find in the match against Team New Zealand at the end of February, but the Kiwis have yet to stipulate the maximum strength of wind in which racing will be staged, and will be able to choose between two boats just four days before racing begins.

The Mumm 36 is to be dropped from the line-up for three-boat teams contesting the next Admiral's Cup in 2001. It will be replaced by a second one-design 40-footer, the Farr 40, as the Sydney 40 is retained for its second series. The third boat will be a level-rating 50-footer to the IMS rule, meaning that the new IR(M) rule, set up by the organising Royal Ocean Racing Club, has been passed over by the Admiral's Cup committee meeting in Australia.