Tuesday, July 23
Updated: July 24, 8:01 AM ET
All sailors rescued from scene off Long Beach

Associated Press

SAN DIEGO -- The high-tech, $5 million racing sloop went down in about 55 feet of water a mile off the coast of Long Beach.

America's Cup
A salvage crew works to recover one of Dennis Conner's America's Cup racing yachts that sank while training in the Pacific Ocean.
But yachtsman Dennis Conner insists there is "no question'' the boat can be repaired in time for the America's Cup trials, which begin Oct. 1 off Auckland, New Zealand.

"We'll be sailing again before the trials and everything will be fine,'' he said Tuesday. "We're extremely fortunate.''

All 15 crew members aboard the Stars & Stripes were rescued after it sank just after 1:30 p.m. when the rudder shaft broke and tore a hole in the boat's carbon-fiber hull.

The 59-year-old Conner, perhaps the world's best known sailor, was not on board.

The 80-foot boat was raised about six hours later and towed by barge to Conner's compound on Terminal Island.

"The good news is no one was hurt,'' he said. "The crew hardly got wet.''

The crew, which had been training since February, will miss only two preparation days, Conner said.

Although the boat went down in fewer than five minutes, Conner said the crew had time to take down the mainsail and jib before jumping on nearby tenders.

All that was visible before the vessel was raised was about 60 feet of its 110-foot carbon-fiber mast, which was sticking straight out of the water.

Stars & Stripes, sail number USA-77, had completed a morning testing sail with its stablemate, USA-66, also named Stars & Stripes. It was about to pick up sponsors for an afternoon sail when it sank.

Conner has won the 151-year-old America's Cup four times, though not since 1988. He's also lost it twice. He now spends most of his time raising money for the race, however, not sailing.

USA-77 was christened in Long Beach, joining USA-66, which was launched in February. This is the first time since the 1986-87 America's Cup that Conner has been able to afford two new boats. One will be shipped to New Zealand next week.

America's Cup contenders can race only one yacht at a time, but often keep a backup boat ready, just in case.

The only other America's Cup yacht to sink was oneAustralia, which cracked in two and went down off San Diego during a challenger series race in 1995. The crew was rescued but the boat was lost.

Three weeks later, Conner's yacht took on water from keel damage and had to be towed back to San Diego aided by pumps and flotation buoys.

In 1999, the hull of one of Young America's two boats buckled in a race off Auckland and nearly sank.

America's Cup yachts weigh about 25 tons, with the bulk of the weight in the 20-ton lead keel bulb that hangs about 14 feet beneath the water line, giving them stability when sailing upwind.

The America's Cup match will begin in February between two-time winner Team New Zealand and the winner of the Louis Vuitton Cup for challengers.

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