Oracle Team USA came close to having a serious injury to crew member Graeme Spence when he fell off the front cross beam of the team’s new AC50 – a situation that has been feared as he passed between the foils, while the new America’s Cup Defender was sailing at speed.
Spence was crossing the platform close to the edge of the mainbeam when the AC50’s bows dug in as she dropped off her foils, and decelerated suddenly.
Spence was lucky to avoid both the main daggerboards and the rudder foils. He seemed to have the presence of mind to be able to get his body to the centre of the mainbeam before letting go and hoping that he didn’t contact the two pairs of foils.
Any time you see or hear someone go over the front it’s a real bad feeling,’ said OTUSA skipper Jimmy Spithill. ‘That time from when he goes over the front to when you see him pop back up on the surface and see the thumbs up, always takes too long.’
‘You’re very aware of everything that’s around you – the four foils in the water with you,’ Spence said. ‘I just sort of froze a little bit and then was quite relieved to realize I was out the back of it.’
The moment was captured from several angles by the on the onboard cameras aboard the AC50, and the team has released a video covering the incident.
The dangers of foil-strike are inherent in any man-overboard situation in the various America’s Cup foiling classes. Emirates Team New Zealand lost two grinders off their AC72 during the Louis Vuitton Cup after a mark rounding nosedive incident. Fortunately, then as now there was no injury.
There have been several incidents, not publicly reported, by the teams of foil-strike with sea life.
Rule changes were made in 2013 restricting the length of rudder foils to reduce the risk of crew injury in a man overboard situation.