x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Pair of America’s Cup races postponed

Strong winds and tide forces organisers to push regatta to Wednesday.

A fireboat passes by spectators at Pier 27 who were watching Emirates Team New Zealand and Oracle Team USA at the America's Cup on Tuesday. Eric Risberg / AP Photo
A fireboat passes by spectators at Pier 27 who were watching Emirates Team New Zealand and Oracle Team USA at the America's Cup on Tuesday. Eric Risberg / AP Photo

SAN FRANCISCO // Strong wind blowing in through the Golden Gate Bridge and a strong tide flowing out to sea forced organisers to postpone two America’s Cup races on Tuesday between Emirates Team Zealand and Oracle Team USA.

Lighter wind is expected on San Francisco Bay on Wednesday, when organisers hope to complete Races 11 and 12. The schedule is four races behind.

Team New Zealand lead 7-1 and need two wins to claim the America’s Cup for the second time in 18 years. Oracle Team USA were penalised two points in a cheating scandal so they need eight more victories to keep the Auld Mug.

The wind limit of 23 knots was reduced to 20.3 knots because of an ebb tide flowing out at 2.7 knots. Iain Murray, the regatta director, said it was the strongest current day of the summer.

The wind gusted to 25 knots.

The original wind limit of 33 knots was reduced to 23 knots as one of 37 safety recommendations made after Andrew “Bart” Simpson, the British double Olympic medalist, was killed on May 9 when Artemis Racing’s catamaran capsized during a training run.

“This is not a safe sport by definition,” said Dirk Kramers of Oracle’s design team. “The loss of Bart in May shook us pretty hard as a community, as a whole industry. Our game is usually fraught will all kinds of self-interest maneuvers. After that event, I think some of those self-interest arguments were set aside and we came out collectively with these limits. These are the rules we play by.”

“You can argue that, especially after a day like today we should revisit those,” Kramers said. “But we’ve all set those rules and to change those rules at this point probably doesn’t make sense. It’s probably not the best thing for the spectators at the moment, but I think for keeping the game fair and keeping the game safe as it can be is the right thing to do.”

On Monday, Oracle Team USA officials proposed increasing the wind limit from 23 to 24 knots, saying the crews were capable of starting races in those conditions aboard their high-performance, 72-foot catamarans.

Team New Zealand declined, saying they would have considered it before racing started, but did not feel it was appropriate to make changes this far into the regatta.

Even if the teams agreed, Murray would have to take the proposal to the US coast guard.

“We’re very happy with where it’s at,” said Nick Holroyd, the Team New Zealand technical director.

“After the racing was canceled today we went through the southwest corner Alcatraz across a shoal which was a pretty rough piece of water. On a day like today, I’m awfully glad to see the boat back at the dock in one piece with 11 fit guys on board. We’re looking forward to some great racing later in the week.

“These boats go very quickly from being great racing to really, survival mode. Whether 23 knots is the exact limit for that, is open to debate.”

Murray said earlier on Tuesday that the conditions would be approaching what they were the day Oracle Team USA capsized its first catamaran in mid-October in about 25 knots of wind. An ebb tide swept the boat under the Golden Gate Bridge and about four miles out to sea. The churning waves destroyed the 131-foot wing sail, costing the crew four months of training time.