American Magic's race boat Patriot might have been battered and broken when it capsized at speed during the America's Cup challenger series in Auckland, but skipper Terry Hutchinson says its proud heart is still beating.
The United States team remains in a race against time to repair Patriot, to make it fighting fit in time to face Italy's Luna Rossa in the semifinal of the Prada Cup series beginning Friday. Hutchinson is fully confident Patriot will be at the start line and as good as new after tireless efforts from American Magic's shore team and help from America's Cup defender Team New Zealand.
The Cup-holder made its boat-building team available to American Magic to fashion the panel needed to close a yawning hole near Patriot's bow. The U.S. yacht came close to sinking after its high-speed capsize; as water filled Patriot's hull its complex electronic systems effectively were destroyed and have had to be replaced.
Bit by bit, the American Magic shore team has restored the damaged components of Patriot, internal and external, and as they have done so the boat and the United States challenge breathed again
''Patriot, she's coming back to life,'' Hutchinson said. ''They're turning the boat on and really the heartbeat of the boat is going again which is really exciting.''
The critical work has been in repairing the damaged hull.
''The shore team basically finished the work they need to do to prepare for the panel and that was being built by the Team New Zealand boat builders,'' Hutchinson said. ''They finished that a half-day early. This morning the panel showed up and I had to put down the tools to come over here (to Saturday's news conference). They're making really good strides.
''It's still a bit early to say when we'll sail next week but we look forward to getting back out on the course with Luna Rossa on Friday.''
Successful America's Cup campaigns depend on the incremental improvement of race boats. As teams race they learn what adjustments or modifications are necessary to make the boat go faster. It's not yet clear whether American Magic's capsize has set back any planned process of improvement, whether the pursuit of more speed might have been forestalled by the need simply to get the boat back on the water.
''There was a lot of discussion about (improvement) but we had to focus on getting the boat ready to go racing,'' Hutchinson said. ''We'll go out with the boat 100% when where ready to go racing and pick up where we left off.
''I'm not surprised by the quality of the work being done in our shed. Over the last three years our shore team has always exceeded expectations and have always delivered our gear on time and to a standard that is very high. So that doesn't surprise me.''
Hutchinson hailed the contribution from Team New Zealand, which on the day of the capsize made all of its personnel and facilities available to American Magic to ensure Patriot returned to the water.
''I think the thing we are reminded of is what the defender has done for us and what they've helped us achieve,'' he said. ''Certainly without them it wouldn't have happened.
''We're in a tight manpower situation and they certainly bailed us out so I have high thanks to Team New Zealand for what they did.''
The winner of the semifinal will take on Britain's INEOS Team UK in the challenger final for the right to sail against Team New Zealand for the America's Cup trophy.
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