Oracle Racing's Russell Coutts was at the helm when his AC45 capsized while participating in practice starts - see VIDEO and PICS

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Four times America’s Cup winner, Russell Coutts was at the helm of an AC45 which capsized today on San Francisco Bay. At the time Oracle Racing was participating in some practice starts with the America’s Cup Race Management Team.

Coutts was bearing off in a pre-start and pitchpoled at 22kts. The AC45 was capsized for about 10 minutes and apparently the wingsail was undamaged, after from some torn skinning fabric.

Oracle Racing reported: “After the media sail the team’s two crews, led by helmsmen James Spithill and Russell Coutts, engaged in exhibition racing run by America’s Cup Principal Race Officer John Craig. He set a course that featured a reaching start to a turning mark around which the crews unfurled the gennakers and turned downwind.

After rounding the leeward mark the two crews sailed up to a windward mark before another blasting run downwind and a final beat to the finish. The race lasted no more than 20 minutes.

The good times were dampened in the second pre-start, when ORACLE Racing Boat No. 5, helmed by Coutts, capsized during the pre-start. In action similar to Friday, both bows buried and the boat went nearly vertical before capsizing to starboard.”

“We got caught in the pre-start at the wrong angle and paid the price,” said Coutts, who fell through the lower part of the front element of the wingsail. “The boats are spectacular, hard to sail. They’re gonna test the best sailors in the world. Luckily I had the crash helmet on.”

During the incident crewman Shannon Falcone injured his ribs. “It was all in slow motion,” said Falcone, one of the strongest members of the team. “I didn’t think it was going to go all the way over.”

Falcone walked under his own power to an ambulance waiting shoreside and was taken to the hospital for a precautionary X-ray.

“I would’ve preferred it didn’t happen, but it’s all learning,” Coutts added. “Frankly, I’ve got to see these sort of things to learn how hard to push it and what not to do. It’s lots of learning for me.”

The incident is the second in three days for Coutts, with the first being a very well publicized near-miss last week. There were several capsize incidents in Auckland during media and race management trials during March and April this year, including top ranked Emritares Team NZ and Artemis Racing teams.