Sunday, July 13, 2008

The CAM TP52 yacht sinks off Valencia's coast

A tragic event took place on Sunday afternoon a mere 3 miles off Valencia's coast, very close to what used to be the south race course of the 32nd America's Cup. The Spanish TP52 yacht CAM sank in a matter of 10-15 minutes after the crew heard a loud bang coming from the bow.

CAM, together with TAU-Andalucia and ONO, were the only TP52 yachts taking part in the Trofeo Reina Rolex Cup that took place from Friday to Sunday. Unlike the 8 GP42 yachts that were sharing the same race area and racing for the 3rd event of the QUEBRAMAR Cup, the vast majority of the TP52 fleet had decided not to participate in the trophy. Although the regatta enjoys enough prestige in Spain, the vicinity of the next AUDI Medcup event in Palma next week, left just three local TP52 teams to race mainly for bragging rights.

Sunday was a weird day weather-wise. We went from no wind at all to 16 knots and high waves and then back to a lighter breeze and much calmer seas, and all that within 3 hours.

The CAM TP52 yacht is sinking off Valencia's coast. Valencia, 13 July 2008. Photo copyright Nico Martinez

After the Saturday evening rain most sailors were forecasting light winds for the closing day of the event, and so it appeared in the morning. The TP52s and GP42s were scheduled to start racing at noon but at that time there were just 4 knots of breeze. The race committee had to wait for an hour and a half before firing the starting gun, under 7-8 knots of wind and choppy seas.

The first race took place under normal conditions. The breeze was constantly increasing and reached 12-13 knots in the last leg of the race. The waves also got bigger but none of the 11 top-level yachts appeared to have suffered.

With the time limit approaching fast and 15-16 knots of southeastern breeze the race committee didn't have to think twice before giving the signal for a second race. The waves reached 1.5-2 meters in some areas of the race course but again the GP42 fleet seemed not to worry about the conditions. Nevertheless, in the TP52 fleet things started going wrong when a mere 5 minutes after the start ONO abandoned the race due to gennaker problems.

The CAM TP52 yacht is sinking off Valencia's coast. Valencia, 13 July 2008. Photo copyright Nico Martinez

CAM and TAU-Andalucia went on racing but halfway through the first leg the CAM crew heard a loud bang coming from the bow and the entire boat jolted. They immediately went to check and saw hundreds of seawater liters pouring in from a hole as big as the size of a person. They called for help on the radio and immediately dozens of tenders and ribs rushed to help them. All GP42 teams as well as the organization sent all available ribs. All buoys that were not strictly necessary for the GP42 race were used in order to try to keep the yacht afloat. Desafío even tried to save the yacht with a powerful water pump but to no avail. Less than 15 minutes after calling for rescue the yacht was resting on Valencia's seabed and just the tip of the mast was visible. Fortunately the entire crew is sound and safe, without a single scratch. Fortunately for the Spanish sailors, the wind had once again dropped down and the sea was much calmer.

According to Luis Doreste, helmsman of the yacht in the Trofeo de la Reina, the most probable cause of the incident was the tension of the forestay that delaminated the bow. This 2007-generation boat was a Botín & Carkeek design, originally built by Goetz Boats. It had a mediocre performance in the Medcup circuit last year, finishing 14th in a 24-strong TP52 fleet.

In 2008 the team changed the bow in an effort to improve the boat's performance and, although not officially confirmed, it is believed the breakage took place precisely in the joint of the new bow. The blame game will now probably begin after a million euros went down to the bottom of the sea.

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At 10:20 PM, Anonymous WetHog said...

Well its good to read that noone was injured in this incident. If the CAM folk need another boat they might want to pay a visit to BMWO in Valencia. USA-17 is now collecting dust and did very well in her first racing action.


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