Police recovered tools used to wreck the buoy's solar panels and electronic equipment and are fingerprinting it.

Vandals have wrecked the weather buoy used by yachting syndicate AmericaOne in the Louis Vuitton Cup, but skipper Paul Cayard says it will not “wipe out” the challenge. The buoy is owned by the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) and the rights to its wave and wind information were sold to AmericaOne for $200,000.

The San Francisco syndicate are racing Prada of Italy in the cup finals, with the winner to challenge Team New Zealand for the America’s Cup later this month. Police recovered tools used to wreck the buoy’s solar panels and electronic equipment and are fingerprinting it.

NIWA said because the buoy now has no lights and is a hazard it will be towed back to Auckland city for repairs, probably tomorrow. Cayard’s challenge won today’s race against Luna Rossa without the buoy’s information, and now trails Prada 2-3. “I heard the NIWA buoy got vandalised pretty severely and the equipment is very heavily damaged,” Cayard said after the race. “The police have been out there investigating it and apparently were able to gather some tools that were left behind by the perpetrator. It’ll be out of action for the rest of this series.”

Cayard said the buoy was one of AmericaOne’s better investments. “It came at a time a couple of years ago when we didn’t have a lot of money. “We spent $US110,000 ($NZ225,363) to keep that buoy in the water and have the exclusive rights to it. It has served us in different ways over the period of time. “First as a design tool, and now more recently it is one of our data gathering points out on the water in the morning. “To that extent it’s one-sixth or seventh of the data we get from different locations on the Hauraki Gulf every morning. “It won’t wipe us out at all.”

NIWA regional manager Gavin Fisher said the buoy was damaged between midnight and 1am today. “Why anyone would want to target the buoy at that time of night for a seemingly senseless act of vandalism is anyone’s guess,” Fisher said in a statement. “We’ll try to get it repaired as quickly as possible but it is not the type of equipment you can buy off the shelf at a downtown store.” NIWA developed the buoy about four years ago for marine and ocean research. AmericaOne have on-sold the information from the buoy to the America’s Cup Challenge Association, but no other syndicates paid for, or see, the data. The sale in 1998 by NIWA of the information to AmericaOne was heavily criticised by Team New Zealand.