Theories Touted For Yacht Sinking

The Age

Wednesday March 8, 1995

CAROLINE OVERINGTON

A broken winch and a strong gust of wind or a collision with a submerged object probably caused OneAustralia to snap and sink, according to the yacht's design company, Fluid Thinking.

It came up with the two probabilities after examining film footage of the sinking, interviewing the crew and doing computer checks.

Fluid Thinking managing director Alan Ramadan said one possible reason for the hull snapping in two was added load on the centre of the boat caused by a broken port primary winch. A second possibility was that OneAustralia hit something underwater.

He said the winch, just behind the mast, normally carries the load of the headsail but, as it was broken, the headsail line was put around a winch further back, putting extra pressure on the centre of the hull.

In support of the submerged object theory, it's known that the America's Cup course is in the migration path of the California grey whale and several have been sighted during racing. It is also a busy shipping lane.

OneAustralia expects to receive an insurance cheque of about $3 million later this week to cover the loss of the boat.

Before the America's Cup competition started, the San Diego Yacht Club accused John Bertrand of cheating. It asked the cup court to ban OneAustralia. The Americans contended that OneAustralia and Sydney 95 were one super syndicate, since they had the same design company, Fluid Thinking, and had shared facilities, such as cranes, at Southport, Queensland.

The cup court ruled against the San Diego Yacht Club, saying the two syndicates were just good friends. Yesterday, however, they got into bed together.

Syd Fischer, the millionaire owner of Sydney 95, has offered to help John Bertrand win the cup.

Sydney 95 has performed too poorly to make the semi-finals but OneAustralia has qualified. To be a serious contender for the cup, OneAustralia needs two boats.

``It was always part of the agreement that John and I would help each other if one got in trouble," Fischer said.

Bertrand will not be allowed to race Fischer's boat but he can trial against it.

The crew of OneAustralia worked yesterday to prepare its older boat, also called OneAustralia, for competition.

It has abandoned the salvage operation, believing that the yacht would be badly damaged.

``It's looking less and less likely that we can recover the equipment with time for it to be of value to the project," Bertrand said.

He wanted to save the mast and sails but the chance of recovering anything is bleak.

The syndicate yesterday appealed to the International America's Cup jury for a bye. Sydney 95 and Nippon agreed to the delay but France objected.

France, which was scheduled to sail against OneAustralia, completed the course alone. It was awarded five points. OneAustralia is now third on the cup ladder. The four top-scoring yachts enter the semi- finals.

© 1995 The Age

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