PJ Montgomery: The key factor that led to Patriot's capsize

Author
NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Mon, 18 Jan 2021, 11:37AM
American Magic helmsman Dean Barker oversees the efforts to stop Patriot from sinking. Photo / Michael Craig
American Magic helmsman Dean Barker oversees the efforts to stop Patriot from sinking. Photo / Michael Craig

PJ Montgomery: The key factor that led to Patriot's capsize

Author
NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Mon, 18 Jan 2021, 11:37AM

Veteran sailing broadcaster PJ Montgomery has singled out a key element in American Magic's set up that he believes contributed to its capsize on Sunday.

Speaking to Newstalk ZB the morning after Patriot's dramatic crash, Montgomery said that, out of anyone on the water on Sunday, Dean Barker had the know-how to avoid catastrophe - if he had been able to actually see the signs of its imminent arrival.

As American Magic and Luna Rossa approached the final gate of their race, television commentators mentioned the gloomy weather system they were entering and warned of the danger of strong gusts.

However, the US team chose to throw caution to the wind and attempt a difficult and complex tack around the mark off the coast of Auckland's East Coast Bays.

"That's where Dean Barker grew up, sailing out off Murrays Bay, and where he won his first youth world laser championships, so he would have known the weather.

"But I think a part of the problem was that Dean, of course, was down to leeward and may not have seen those daunting black clouds."

The AC75 boats involved in this edition of the America's Cup are the fastest and some of the most complicated in the event's history. Montgomery says this modern level of complexity means that mistakes are more likely to be made if communication is compromised onboard the boat.

"The way American Magic is set up, is in contrast to the Brits, where we hear Giles Scott and Ben Ainslee talking, which is a modern-day version of Coutts and Butterworth.

"There's too much going on for the [American Magic] helmsman, being able to cope with all the systems and going at breakneck speeds north of 40 knots, to be able to get the old-fashioned head out of the boat and look and see what you're able to see, as the Brits were able to do."

Now, Montgomery's advice for the stricken US team is to knuckle down with repairs and focus on being able to compete with a fully functional and competitive boat, but only when they absolutely need to.

"Why would they even consider trying to race this weekend?

"The electronics down below these boats are like a pinball wizard show.. there'll be a lot of damage there.

"Bite the bullet and prepare for the semifinal."

The Prada Cup semifinal is scheduled to take place between January 29 and February 2 and will see the two lowest-placed boats from the round robin phase compete for a place in the final against the top seed.

That schedule gives the American Magic crew 10 days to repair the boat before it needs to be cleared for competition.

Sunday's dramatic proceedings have thrown a spanner into Montgomery's predictions on which team will emerge from the Prada Cup to compete with Team New Zealand for the America's Cup itself.

"Before it started I picked American Magic to be the challenger for the America's Cup, now the whole thing's wide open."