Large gust dismasts former America Cup racing yacht ‘Stars & Stripes’

‘Stars & Stripes,’ which raced in the 1992 America’s Cup race, was out on a sailing tour on San Diego Bay on July 15 when an abnormally large gust of wind snapped the 112-foot mast.

SAN DIEGO—Former America’s Cup racing yacht Stars & Stripes USA 11 has been out of commission after a gust of wind during a sailing tour on July 15 snapped the mast in two spots. No one was injured during the incident. 

Stars & Stripes has taken people out on public and private sailing tours nearly 3,000 times over the past 15 years. Stars & Stripes Captain and Co-Owner Lynn Hanna said this is the first time something like this has happened.

“Just the wrong time, the wrong place,” Lynn Hanna said. 

On July 15, Stars & Stripes welcomed 12 passengers and seven crew members onboard for the usual three-hour ride through San Diego Bay. 

The historic racing yacht was near the end of Harbor Island by Island Prime cruising from a wind out of the west blowing about 8 to 10 knots on a starboard tack when all of the sudden a loud noise cracked across the Bay.

“We’re still a little shell shocked,” said Bee Hanna, Lynn Hanna’s wife, who was also onboard when the mast broke.

Stars & Stripes broken mast

Lynn Hanna said all of the sudden, the wind shifted 30 degrees and an unexpected gust clocking 17 mph broke the mast at the first and second spreaders and the structure came down into the water on the side of the sailboat. 

“It was a very sudden, unexpected thing that happened,” Lynn Hanna said. “We’re kind of going along nice and relaxed and then all of the sudden you get this huge gust of wind.”

Aside from that gust, Lynn Hanna said the wind had been consistent all day and the sails were trimmed accordingly, for 8 to 10 mph winds.

“It changes direction a little bit, changes speed a little bit but right here, all of the sudden, the wind went from 8 miles an hour to 17,” Lynn Hanna said pointing to about 3:30 p.m. on a chart of the wind from their location on the Bay on July 15.

A nearby private fishing vessel came over to make sure everyone was okay. Within a matter of minutes, the 12 passengers were safely loaded onto the fishing vessel and taken back to shore. The Hannas were able to get the mast out of the water and to Driscoll Boat Yard, where it awaits its fate. 

The insurance company came and looked at the mast on Aug. 11 and will determine if there was some kind of preventable maintenance that could have been done to prevent the failure. The Coast Guard did a complete inspection of Stars & Stripes in 2016, which included an infrared inspection of the mast and the rigging had been inspected in February, with no problems coming up. 

Stars & Stripes USA-11 is one of only a few America’s Cup racing yachts in the world used as a charter boat. The historical yacht was owned and raced by Team Dennis Conner in the 1992 race, which was held in San Diego Bay. America’s Cup was first contested in 1851 making it the oldest trophy in international sport, older than the modern Olympic Games by 45 years.

For the past 15 years, Stars & Stripes has been used for public sailing tours, private charters and team building events. 

“There’s no question the boat is going to be put back together as a charter boat, it’s too valuable,” Lynn Hanna said. “It has a certificate of inspection from the Coast Guard, which takes about a year and a half to two years to get and costs a couple hundred thousand dollars.”

Stars & Stripes America's Cup

However, who will put it back together remains unclear. Lynn Hanna, who said he has been running the business as a retirement hobby, is ready to turn the helm to someone new.

“I’ve been doing this 17 or 18 years as retirement so we would like to turn it over to somebody else and we’ll let them put the mast on the boat however they want,” Lynn Hanna said.

The mast cost between $300,000 and $400,000 and an authentic mast from a boat of the same design would likely cost the same or more. Lynn Hanna said this design of boat was built from 1992 to 2007 and there were about 100 boats made. He added even if they were to purchase one of these masts, they would still need custom rigging since each boat was rigged just a little bit different.

Another, less expensive option would be to replace the mast with a shorter, non-authentic mast.

“The boat will be fine, it just won’t be as fast as the original,” Lynn Hanna said.

Lynn Hanna is hoping to hear from interested buyers before making plans for a new mast.

In the meantime, Lynn Hanna and his business partner will offer public sailing tours on IL Moro di Venezia ITA-16, another America’s Cup veteran. The Italian racing yacht also competed in the 1992 event in San Diego. Over the past 15 years it has been used for racing events versus Stars & Stripes and for small team building events. IL Moro has a passenger capacity of 12 compared to 25 on Stars & Stripes. 

Bee Hanna said they greatly appreciate the San Diego boating community and those who have reached out to them to offer well wishes.

“It’s just the history, she gets out there and it’s like the mother hen with all the chicks around her,” Bee Hanna said.  

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5 thoughts on “Large gust dismasts former America Cup racing yacht ‘Stars & Stripes’

  • Mindbottled

    Ummm – a gust to 17 mph is barely a gust and I should hope this was the “first time it happened” because if this was a regularly occurrence, they shouldn’t be on the water. Perhaps a bit of boating knowledge would help the reporting.

  • Brett Haring

    I think I remember the Australian boat of this design era breaking in half and sinking in about 45 seconds. So, while these boats were pretty to watch sailing by, the extremes to which they pushed their construction were stupid. S-o-o-o, I guess you could say these boats were pretty, stupid. Sorry – couldn’t resist.

    • Rich Knauer

      I find it hard to accept that a 17 mile gust in a 30 in a different direction would cause this catostrophic failure!!! There had to be a contributing failure of mast that went unnoticed.

  • John Guenther

    Not a guest issue. Miss management of the running back stays while maneuvering is the most obvious cause.

  • Brett Haring

    Oh, after a little more reading after 1st remark I saw that S&S sank in 55′ of water off Point Loma after a steering box failure. Forgot about that one. Amusing photo of a bare mast sticking straight up out of the water though.



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