America's Cup 2017: Blame for Team New Zealand mishap lies with race director - Peter Lester

Former America's cup sailor, Peter Lester has hit out at race director Iain Murray for allowing the cup challengers to race in unsafe conditions.

All four boats suffered varying amounts of damage in choppy seas, with winds of up to 24 knots, Team New Zealand capsized in the final race of the day.

The New Zealander also hinted that cup holders Oracle Team USA wouldn't have been unhappy that their four rival syndicates were out racing in appalling conditions while the sat a shore watching on.

The two-time New Zealand sailor of the year told NZME that he intends on confronting both Murray and Oracle at tomorrow morning's race briefing in Bermuda.

"In my mind [the wind speed] was above the upper limit, the boats shouldn't have been racing," said Lester. "The damage done to all the teams is substantial," Lester said.

"At the race management meeting tomorrow, I'll be asking some pertinent questions to the race director, Iain Murray.

"What the rules say is they can race up to 24 knots and that's a sample average wind, taken from eight minutes to three minutes before the start.

"When we were briefed before the regatta, Iain made it very clear to us he has the final say and, of course, safety comes into this.

"Clearly, today, the safety of the crew was really compromised. Our guys dodged a bullet, there are one or two bumps and bruises, and a few stitches, but someone could have been really badly hurt.

"The regatta has got off lightly."

America's Cup 2017: Blame for Team New Zealand mishap lies with race director - Peter Lester
Images courtesy of Photosport
Images courtesy of Photosport

While stopping short of suggesting that Russell Coutts and his Oracle team were in direct conversation with the race director, Lester believes that had Oracle been scheduled to race in similar conditions, he doubted racing would go ahead.

"The challengers are out there, beating themselves up, doing damage to their boats. That does not help the challengers against the defenders, when it comes to the America's Cup and I think Iain Murray is accountable."

With conditions forecast to be similar over the next two days, Lester believes racing should be put on the shelf to minimise the risk to both the boats and the sailors.

"I am fearful - the forecast for tomorrow is for more wind than today. If that is the case, the forecast is for more wind or the same as today, they shouldn't be out there - it's dangerous."

At this point it is still unclear if the New Zealand boat would be in good enough shape to race on Thursday [NZT] regardless of the wind conditions.

Lester said the shore crew have a fair amount of work to do in order for Team New Zealand to get back out on the water.

"Talk about work, they are in for a 36-hour stint to get this thing back in one piece. You'll be amazed at what they achieve in a short time.

"There's a lot [of damage], but a lot is superficial. The spectacular crash and the fairings falling off, it's all quite superficial."