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Continued: After deadly capsize, America's Cup sailors strap on survival gear when they go racing

  • Article by: BERNIE WILSON , AP Sports Writer
  • Last update: July 5, 2013 - 8:45 AM

"That gives you confidence going out there," he said.

"Nine times out of 10, everyone on the boat is going to be at max heart rate," he said. "So when you're underwater you've got max heart, but very little time. You've got to make sure you spend those seconds wisely if you need them. "

Team New Zealand tactician Ray Davis said being bundled up in survival gear doesn't make sailing these boats any less dangerous.

"You've got to be lucky to get out of a capsize situation. Oracle were lucky; obviously Artemis was a devastating ending there. It's a very, very fine line when you're in that situation. This is going to help your chances, but probably by just a few percent," Davies said.

America's Cup sailors have to be sharp and they have to be fit. All but three of the 11 crewmen have to grind — turning the winches that trim the sails and operate the hydraulic system for the daggerboards. Every time the boats tack or gybe, the sailors have to scramble across the trampoline — the net that serves as the deck — to the other hull.

"They're a handful," said Oracle tactician John Kostecki, who turns 49 on Sunday and is one of the older sailors in the Cup.

Oracle grinder Shannon Falcone burned 5,900 calories during a two-boat training session Wednesday.

"As soon as you get on this boat, you're on, and it doesn't stop until you get back to the dock," Spithill said. "That's quite different to most boats. You just cannot let your focus wander. If you do, it will come back and get you. Especially for the guys in the other positions. It's just relentless physically. Our races are 30 to 40 minutes. We don't get halftime, we don't' get timeouts. It's a sprint. It's max heart rate the whole time. We don't get outside assistance, we don't talk to our pit teams. It's a full on battle for 30 to 40 minutes. There's not many other sports where you just go nonstop like that. There's no referees who say, 'Stop.' "

This will be the most spectacular America's Cup setting ever. The starting line will be perpendicular to the Golden Gate Bridge and the boats will sail past Alcatraz Island. They'll be within view of the Transamerica Pyramid and Coit Tower.

But gazing at landmarks is for tourists, not sailors.

"Never," Spithill said. "It's just full-on. It takes 100 percent focus. The only time we get to look is when we're about to run into Alcatraz and then we get a real good look at it. In the fog, everything comes up quick at 45 knots."

As serious as they have to be, there was a funny moment a while back for Spithill and his mates.

There's a steering wheel on each side of the boats, which are about 50 feet wide. When Spithill was switching sides during a maneuver, he tripped and went over the top of the wheel. He grabbed ahold of it but the wheel broke and he fell into the bay.

"It cost me a lot at the bar that night," Spithill said. "It was definitely embarrassing. You've got to have a bit of a laugh and put your hand up. It was a long chase boat ride back to the boat. The boys basically gave me a standing ovation when I came back and I definitely paid for it that night. It was relentless. Rounds, trays of oysters. I've never seen so much food come out in my life. Little did I know they had so many oysters in their reserve tank because they all seemed to come out."

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