Peter Burling's relief at crew escaping capsize with just 'cuts and bruises'
Safety was Peter Burling's first instinct as his boat started to nose-dive and he was relieved to see his six-man Team New Zealand crew survive their dangerous capsize with just "a few cuts and bruises".
Burling, 26, was at the helm of the Kiwi catamaran when it pitch-poled forwards under acceleration during the start of their fourth race with Britain's Sir Ben Ainslie in high winds on the Great Sound course in Bermuda on Tuesday (Wednesday NZ time).
Team New Zealand lost the race to have their challengers semifinal lead cut to 3-1 in the race to claim five victories.
But Burling's concerns were all about his crew rather than the result or the costly damage to the boat.
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Burling, skipper Glenn Ashby and cyclor Simon van Velthooven managed to stay on board during the spectacular spill, initially upside down and then high on the right hull as the boat was eventually moved on to its side.
Cyclors Blair Tuke, Josh Junior and Andy Maloney "all managed to safely get off the boat" according to Burling which was a pleasant way of describing the trio's hurried exit under pressure.
The team have practised safety drills and Burling was happy to see them carried out successfully.
"I was very thankful when I was sitting at the top of the yacht to be able to look out back and see all their heads above water and they were all safe," Burling said.
"That's definitely the first thing that goes to mind when you have those incidents – checking that the whole crew is safe.
"That's definitely the main thing that we are really happy with – that we have no major injuries.
Recap: America's Cup helmsmen's news conference after Team NZ capsize.
"We've all got a few bruises and cuts and bits of pieces, but nothing major.
"We have sustained quite a bit of damage to the boat but most importantly all the guys on board are safe and with no injuries."
With the incident coming in winds that pushed towards the upper safety limit of 24 knots, everything happened in an instant.
When the boat went beyond the point of no return, Burling's brain was already going into safety mode.
"We were going down very quickly," Burling said as the nose-dive started to really dig in and bring the stern alarmingly high out of the water.
"It was about just trying to look after ourselves and make sure none of the crew were injured at that stage and we are just really thankful that no-one was hurt."
America's Cup teams are put through stringent emergency drills in the leadup to the regatta.
They have to undertake jumping off Olympic tower diving boards to replicate falls from the hulls. They carry knives to clear themselves of any ropes under water. They have state of the art helmets and life-jackets and small oxygen tanks in case they are caught under a capsized yacht.
In 2013 British sailor Andrew "Bart" Simpson, was killed during a training crash on the 72-foot catamarans that were involved in the San Francisco edition of the America's Cup.
Organisers reduced the wind limits in the wake of that accident.
Team New Zealand had grinder Rob Waddell swept overboard during a high-speed nose-dive in Bermuda during a challenger race and then almost capsized their catamaran in the dramatic America's Cup match against Oracle.
Oracle destroyed one of their 72-foot catamarans in the leadup to San Francisco and have been pushing the limits in Bermuda with two capsizes in the leadup to the event. Both of those were described as "soft" capsizes with the boat rolling on its side, rather than the front-on somersault of Team New Zealand's.