McHale's Navy had fewer breakdowns than the challenger fleet has suffered on the waters off Auckland. The most spectacular came on Nov. 9 when the New York Yacht Club's 78-foot Young America split in two. The good news was that its backers had a replacement ready. The bad news? The new boat was even lighter than the first. By the end of the second round robin the new Young America had forfeited two races after helmsman Ed Baird heard groaning noises from the base of his new yacht's mast.
Toshiki Shibata, the bowman on Japan's Nippon Challenge, broke his nose and jaw and lost several teeth when a shackle tore loose during an Oct. 21, sending the spinnaker pole crashing into him. On Nov. 11, Nippon's $200,000 mast snapped. Abracadabra 2000, backed by the Waikiki Yacht Club, was another casualty, blowing out mainsails in two races before Nov. 11, when a snapped boom cost the boat a race. The carnage reached epic proportions that day, with 20-knot winds making seas so rough that only one race in five saw both boats complete the course. Even in that race, loser AmericaOne shredded its spinnaker on the final leg.
Clearly, the designers of America's Cup yachts are pushing the envelope of safety and common sense. But the Italians, who through Monday had won 19 of their 20 starts—losing only to the Cortez Racing Association-backed Team Dennis Connor during a rain squall—seem to have hit upon a design that's both fast and seaworthy. Still, the real racing lies ahead. After another round robin that starts next week, six boats will race in the January semifinals. If all six are still afloat, that is.