The high-flying New Zealand SailGP team are facing a race of a different kind – to have their badly damaged F50 back in time for the Christchurch leg of the season.
The boat, named Amokura, was struck by lightning on the final day of racing in Singapore earlier this month, and will not be ready for Sydney, where racing starts in three weeks. It will instead head to Warkworth for a full inspection, stress testing and repair of significant hydraulic and electrical damage.
Amokura’s 29m mast was struck shortly after the Kiwis' impressive win over Denmark and Australia, their third of the season. While the Kiwi crew were on shore at the time, Denmark grinder Martin Kirketerp sustained electric shock while helping to transport the boat.
He has since fully recovered.
According to New Zealand SailGP Team Wing Trimmer and co-CEO Blair Tuke the F50 suffered "significant damage".
“Quite quickly we discovered that all of the electronics on board were fried. On a lot of the hydraulic components - especially the titanium parts - you could see where the current had been, leaving scouring,” Tuke said.
“Over the coming days in Singapore, more and more issues started to crop up and that’s when the decision was made to bring Amokura back to Aotearoa. Very thankfully everyone on board the boat was okay, and that’s absolutely the most important part.”
While lightning strikes on boats are not uncommon, the high-tech nature of the hydrofoiling catamarans could hinder repair efforts.
“We are a little unsure of exactly the testing we will need to do but we know we need to put it under structural load testing, which is a test we do for every new boat, we will do some thermal imaging, tap testing and some core testing," SailGP Tech Team Director Brad Marsh said.
“The reason to bring [Amokura] back to New Zealand is that we have the facilities and resources here to do the investigation that we need to do."
With SailGP’s New Zealand debut - in Whakaraupō, Lyttelton Harbour - under two months away, Marsh admits timelines are "compressed" to complete a full electronic refit, hydraulic refit and replace affected components and parts.
New Zealand will race on a borrowed boat in Sydney - previously also used by Japan and Canada.
"One of the cool things about SailGP is that when you’re lining up, you know you’re racing against a boat that’s exactly the same as yours,” Tuke said.
“We have in the past sailed other teams’ boats in training days - it’s been awhile since we’ve done that, but you can hardly notice the difference other than some of the visual references.”
New Zealand are second on the overall standings, behind the Aussies, with the next event in Sydney on February 18-19.