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Capsized Oracle Catamaran Towed To Pier

After more than 12 hours, and using a slew of workers and a crane operator, the massive vessel was hoisted upright, though its mast is now virtually destroyed.



    (Published Thursday, Oct. 18, 2012)

    Crews on Wednesday towed ashore a nearly $8 million, 72-foot catamaran used by the Oracle Team USA, the defending America's Cup champion, out of the San Francisco Bay, after it had capsized the day before.

    After more than 12 hours, and using a slew of workers and a crane operator, what remained of the massive vessel was hoisted upright and essentially rescued, though its mast is now virtually destroyed.

    That isn't going to stop Team Oracle USA, whose members plan to participate in America's Cup in September, but repairing the mast will take months, and the team will now have to practice in a smaller catamaran for the big race.

    "We're going to miss out on some valuable sailing," team tactician John Kosteci told NBC Bay Area on Wednesday.

    The catamaran was still submerged in water early Wednesday morning near Pier 80, and about a dozen crew members and a crane operator worked for hours to hoist it out. By noon, the boat had been flipped over and the mast was upright. Just before 1 p.m., crews  began to actually hoist the massive catamaran out of the bay.

    No one was injured when the AC 72 boat flipped over near the Golden Gate Bridge during a practice, but the $2-million wing of the new ship was was "damaged beyond recognition," team officials said.

    The recovery of the Team Oracle USA catamaran follows a highly dramatic capsize on Tuesday about 3 p.m. Fourteen people were aboard at the time, and the crew had been pushing hard on the waters during an America's Cup practice.

    With winds blowing at 25 knots and a strong ebb current in the San Francisco Bay, the team attempted a move known as a bear-away, which is when it flipped over.

    "We did something we were hoping we'd never do, and that is capsize an AC72," Oracle Team USA skipper Jimmy Spithill said Tuesday on the America's Cup website.

    Technician Tom Slingsby said in a statement that as the boat accelerated it pitch-poled. "When the nose went down, the wing hit and a few guys went in the water," he said. "We were unsure if the wing would snap, so we all climbed off the boat."

    Speaking later at a news conference, Slingsby said the ordeal was "pretty scary, I guess. Surreal feeling."

    By 4:30, the boat turned upside down, and by 5 p.m. it was breaking apart.

    Tow boats weren't enough to move the vessel, which was sucked out past the Golden Gate in the early hours of the boat's rescue.

    The wing of the ship appeared to break away from the boat just before 5 p.m. and was breaking into parts a few minutes later.

    Four or five crew members remained on the boat, but it wasn't clear what they were trying to do. There were dozens of pieces of the boat floating nearby. 

    The Coast Guard was available to assist, but Oracle Team USA said they performed the rescue operation on their own.

    Below is a short video clip that shows capsize in progress. Local America's Cup fan Andrew Wisner is the photographer.


    Team Oracle said what happened Tuesday will not impact their efforts to win next year's America's Cup race which will take place on the San Francisco Bay in Sept. 2013.

    "A strong team will bounce back from that," Spithill said.