Yesterday the C-Class Catamaran Aethon capsized after the start of race one of the International C Class Catamaran Championship (long nicknamed the “Little America’s Cup”) and her wing was destroyed. The team hit a patch of turbulence left by a freighter for which they were not prepared and were unable to react in time. Crew Oliver Moore lost his footing and was washed off the boat with the mainsheet wrapped around his leg. As the wing rapidly trimmed in, the boat capsized and helmsman Steve Clark, unable to get out of his trapeze in time, fell through the wing, breaking the mast in the process. Both crew members would be fine, and the platform would suffer only minor damages, but what was left of the wing was all but disintegrated in the three-mile tow back to New York Yacht Club’s Harbor Court.
“The thing I would like to stress here,” said Clark, “is that this was not a product of the conditions. It was a freak accident that could have happened at any time, at any wind speed. If the wing is trimmed all the way to windward and can’t be eased the boat will tip over, and these boats are not designed to do that. It’s a tough end to the last 18 months of work Oliver and I put in, but sometimes these things happen.”
When asked for his thoughts on the sudden death of a wing that had been the best the class had to offer for 11 years Clark was characteristically jovial. “That wing gave us everything it had,” said Clark. “The last time we sailed in heavy air, I told Duncan (MacLane, the wing’s designer), ‘if something goes wrong with the wing here I’m fine with it.’ It has done everything we asked of it for over a decade. If it goes down in flames so be it. At least now I don’t need to decide which museum to donate it to.”
While obviously disappointed in being out of the regatta, Clark was still optimistic about his team’s chances in the future. “Aethon is done for this event, but it is not done for good,” stressed Clark. “In the time that we were racing I felt like we had a rocket. We got away from the line very well and were about to tack on Canaan’s hip, on the inside of the shift, and should have been set up to win the race. It is a tough break for our team that we won’t be able to sail in the rest of the regatta, but we hope to have the new wing up and working soon, and plan on mounting a future challenge. We are going to keep playing this game.”
Despite the loss of Aethon, Clark believes that the event is still set up to be a great success for the C-Class and for the sailing world. “Obviously I would enjoy it more if I were out there,” said Clark, “but there is still some great racing going on out there. Our wing may be broken but the event goes on, and I will be watching with great interest.”