- Associated Press - Wednesday, May 17, 2017

It’s rough out there on Bermuda’s Great Sound, where America’s Cup catamarans are staging an inadvertent demolition derby before the competition has even started.

Emirates Team New Zealand’s 50-foot catamaran will be in the boat shed for three days to repair the significant damage sustained when it was hit from behind by Sir Ben Ainslie of Britain’s Land Rover BAR during a practice race Tuesday. There were no injuries.

Team chief operating officer Kevin Shoebridge said the Kiwis hope to be back on the water for more practice sailing by Saturday. The collision happened when Ainslie tried to clear the Kiwis’ boat but hit the inside of their port hull with his starboard bow. The impact left a puncture and also crushed and delaminated about six feet of the Kiwis’ hull.

Shoebridge called it “a pretty major repair.” He said the team lucked out because the breeze is expected to be light for the next few days.

“We’ll make the best of a bad situation and get on with it,” Shoebridge said by phone Wednesday. “These things happen. We’ll get it fixed and get back on the water.”

The Kiwis used the hashtag #ThanksBen in tweeting that they wouldn’t be practicing Wednesday.

Shoebridge said collisions like this could happen during the competition involving the fast, wing-sailed catamarans, which rise up on hydrofoils when they hit a certain speed and zip across the top of the waves.

Some teams have hit 49 mph.

“I think it highlights something that we potentially will see in the Cup,” Shoebridge said. “These boats are traveling at high speeds. Obviously, it’s very competitive, and at close quarters this can happen and this will happen, I’m sure, throughout the event.”

The elimination series starts May 26. The America’s Cup match begins June 17 between two-time champion Oracle Team USA and the top challenger.

Team New Zealand was the hard-lucker loser to Oracle in the 2013 America’s Cup on San Francisco Bay.

Oracle has capsized its catamaran twice in the last month. There were no injuries and apparently only slight damage.

If a collision happens during a real race, shore crews will be tested.

“To be completely honest, you could do a rougher repair and get back on water, but it wouldn’t be a first choice,” Shoebridge said. “It would be a rush job just to get on the water again. That’s not how you want to go into a competitive series.”

The collision happened a day after the Kiwis damaged one of their rudders. Shoebridge said the team is still analyzing what happened.

“That was a little bit of a setback, obviously, but you know, everyone’s pushing it to the limits with what they’re doing out there. Again, we’ll learn from it and get it sorted. We’ve already got a replacement under construction in Auckland and should have it here soon. It won’t affect us long-term.”


Follow Bernie Wilson on Twitter at https://twitter.com/berniewilson

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