25 Jan 2021

'It's a big ask': Odds stacked against American Magic - expert

11:30 am on 25 January 2021

American Magic has the leadership and resources to recover from its disastrous capsize but it's an uphill battle to be competitive again, says a sailing expert.

Emirates Team New Zealand sailor Richard Meacham (shirtless) assists with the recovery of Patriot after American Magic capsize in their Round Robin 2 match against Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli Team. Prada Cup. Sunday 17th of January 2021.

Team New Zealand assist the crew of American Magic after their capsize. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

The race is on for American Magic to be repaired and ready for the next stage of the America's Cup regatta - the Prada Cup semi-final.

Team UK booked its place in the final last weekend, leaving US challengers American Magic to race Italy's Luna Rossa in a best-of-seven elimination showdown starting on Friday.

The big question is whether American Magic's boat "Patriot" can be mended sufficiently following its spectacular capsize on 17 January.

US sailing veteran Tom Ehman, who has a long association with the America's Cup, most recently becoming founder of the Sailing Illustrated website, told Morning Report from San Francisco that he has his doubts.

He said the syndicate is facing a huge uphill battle. Skipper Terry Hutchinson and his team have been working 24/7 since the accident, Ehman said, and everyone is cheering them on and for the sake of the event they need to succeed.

"But to repair a boat to the extent that they have to do, not only the hull and the big delamination on the side of the hull, which your Team New Zealand boat builders have kindly helped repair in a significant, in a huge way, they have to fix the electronics, they have to fix the hydraulic system. It's a big ask."

American Magic capsized during the America's Cup Challenger Selection Series in Auckland.

Photo: Studio Borlenghi

In 2000 the New York Racing Club boat broke up during the Louis Vuitton Cup and while it was repaired it was never competitive after the setback.

American Magic is facing two races over three successive days from Friday and the weather forecasts are suggesting stronger winds for the latter two days.

"I would be hoping for lighter air. But if anyone can do it this team can - they've got the resources, the determination, the leadership of Terry Hutchinson. We shall soon see."

American Magic skipper Terry Hutchinson.

Terry Hutchinson. Photo: Photosport

The race last Saturday between Ineos and Luna Rossa featured fantastic boats, boat speed, tactics, wind shifts and boat handling, he said.

He pointed to potential problems for Prada because unlike the other three boats, it does not have a separate captain and tactician.

"You may see some problems with them in making those decisions, making the tactical calls, handling the boat - so we could see an interesting weekend."

He said the British who did not perform well before Christmas had not been foxing. Since then, Sir Ben Ainslie's team had fixed their boat, and made several changes to a boat that was "a pig in light air".

"Now the breeze went uprange both last weekend and this coming weekend so I suspect a lot of Ineos Team UK's increased better performance has to do with just being in more breeze."

Ehman said Team New Zealand remains the favourite. Historically the defender has always held on to the America's Cup after challenging and winning the cup, he said.

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