Disaster strikes for the top three teams after racing has finished

 Act 1 may have finished but the surprises hadn’t as a vicious storm swept through Marseille in the early hours of the morning, toppling three of the teams’ boats off their cradles.

As thunder, lightning and torrential rain lashed the port, high winds knocked over three Cup boats in the yacht compound. Alinghi, BMW Oracle and Emirates Team New Zealand were all blown onto their sides in a storm that flattened other parts of the America’s Cup compound.

Early inspections of the damage suggest that the Kiwi boat NZL-82 had come off worst of the three, landing on one of the teams’ containers, striking the metal box amidships and just below the gunwale as it did so. Alinghi’s SUI-64 and BMW Oracle’s USA-76 appeared to have landed on marquees which could have broken their fall.

The accident could have serious implications for all three teams as well as the event which could see three of the event’s star players out of the next Act which is due to start in Valencia in three weeks. Worst affected could be Team New Zealand who have their second boat in New Zealand.

Cup boats are refined structures, designed to carry high loads in specific areas with scantlings paired down to the absolute minimum wherever possible. While holes in low load areas are relatively easy to repair, damage in highly stressed areas can write a structure off.

As dawn broke and team members hurried down to inspect the damage there was little more that could be ascertained about the precise state of the boats until they were lifted upright. But at first sight the scene wasn’t a pretty one and the outlook grim.

K-Challenge, (who had unstepped their mast shortly after racing had finished), Le Defi and Shosholoza were all undamaged.