First a capsize and then a man overboard on Saturday. It has been a dramatic week in the America’s Cup challenger eliminations on Bermuda’s Great Sound, and the main event is still a week away.
It was not just any man overboard, it was Sweden’s Artemis Racing skipper Nathan Outteridge, who fell overboard during a tack in Race 3 of the challenger finals, allowing Emirates Team New Zealand to sail ahead and take a 2-1 lead in the best-of-nine series.
Outteridge slipped and fell off the boat as the six-man crew went through its quick, choreographed sprint to change sides while the 50-foot (15m) foiling catamaran was turning while going about 27 knots (50kph) on the fifth of seven legs.
Photo: America’s Cup Event Authority / AP
Two crewmen were the first to move from the starboard hull to the port hull. Then came Outteridge and another crewman. The boat began to straighten and there went the skipper, sliding off the back beam and into the sound.
“I was just looking for something to grab onto,” said Outteridge, an Australian who has won Olympic gold and silver medals. “These boats are pretty aero, so there wasn’t really much there. I tried to grab some net or a bit of the boat and just must missed everything and ended up in the water.”
“Once I resurfaced, I looked up and sort of made a little prayer and wished the guys best of luck and hoped they made the cross and could pull off a couple of gybes. It’s pretty hard when any person goes overboard to get these boats around the track,” he said.
Outteridge said the crew would review video and determine what it would do differently if he goes overboard again.
“The main goal is to stay on the boat from now on,” he said with a smile.
Grinder Luke Parkinson quickly jumped behind the wheel, but down to five crewmen, Artemis eased up as New Zealand skipper Peter Burling sailed off to victory.
Outteridge was plucked out of the water by a chase boat and was okay.
He was fortunate that he was not injured. In late 2015, Groupama Team France skipper Franck Cammas fell overboard during a training session and one of the rudders nearly cut off his right foot.
“It’s not the first time it’s happened to myself or to probably many people in these boats and I don’t think it will be the last either,” Outteridge said.
The winner of this series moves on to face two-time defending champion Oracle Team USA in the 35th America’s Cup match starting on Saturday.
Three more races were scheduled yesterday.
Team New Zealand had just pulled ahead of Artemis when Outteridge had his splashdown.
“Before Nath went off it was shaping up to be a really close top mark,” said Burling, himself an Olympic gold and silver medalist who went head-to-head with Outteridge in the London and Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games.
“We had just battled our way back in and it was obviously a bit of a shame. We figured out why they slowed down when we sailed past them on the run,” he said.
Artemis had been nearly perfect in Race 2, leading wire-to-wire and staying on its hydrofoils the whole way.
In the first race, Artemis had the lead, but Outteridge crossed the course boundary for an unforced error and had to slow to two boat lengths behind the Kiwis.
Burling sailed ahead to a 47-second victory.
Outteridge’s tumble was the latest mayhem in the challenger series.
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