Die another day, an America’s Cup with more twists than a Bond film

By Darryl Matsuda
San Jose Mercury News
SAN FRANCISCO _ The 34th America’s Cup has had races postponed or abandoned because of too much wind and too little wind.
On Saturday, a third possibility wiped out a day of racing
How about wind coming from the wrong direction?
On a rainy Saturday, an early southerly wind doomed Races 14 and 15 because a wind shift to a friendlier southwest direction more suited to the racecourse came too late.
For challenger Emirates Team New Zealand, its opportunity to win the America’s Cup was once again delayed. The Kiwis lead defender Oracle Team USA in the best-of-17 series 8-3 and need one more victory to take home the Cup. Oracle needs to win the next six races.
Friday night, knowing the wind forecast, regatta director Iain Murray said the teams were offered an alternate course that ran toward Treasure Island. Both teams declined, preferring to wait for favorable wind on the established course rather than sailing into uncharted territory.
But the wind didn’t cooperate in time for Race 14 to go off before the 2:40 p.m. deadline for the latest starting time.
“The wind was well to the left of what would be a good racecourse,” Murray said.
And if they had tried to race in this wind?
“It would have been a follow-the-leader-racecourse,” Murray said.
At this stage of the America’s Cup, with New Zealand on match point and Oracle fighting to stay alive, Murray said the integrity of the racing is the most important factor in the decisions that are being made.
“There’s an awful lot at stake for these teams,” Murray said. “They don’t want to have anything less than a quality race. The America’s Cup deserves quality races. This is representing hundreds of millions of dollars and years of peoples’ lives.
“We are at match point. Every race is critical. The America’s Cup, right now, is the focus of our sailing world. These remaining races, it’s super important that they’re right.”
And as it turned out, even going to the alternate course would have presented problems.
“The teams never practiced on the alternative course,” Murray said. “They had never spent time sailing in that wind direction. And that wind direction was unstable today. It wasn’t the right day today.”
Besides the wind direction, the 2:40 p.m. deadline was also a factor in postponing Saturday’s racing. Murray said the deadline is locked in because of television and the U.S. Coast Guard permit for the event. Under the permit, the America’s Cup must be cleared off the bay by 4 p.m.
Sunday will be Day 16 of the regatta, which ties the record for the longest America’s Cup, established in New Zealand in 2003. That competition lasted from Feb. 15 to March 2, with Switzerland’s Alinghi sweeping New Zealand 5-0. There was a nine-day delay after Race 2 because of wind (too much and too little) and rough seas.
The forecast for Sunday appears to be more in line with typical San Francisco conditions for this time of year. But you never know.
“Expect the unexpected.” America’s Cup Event Authority CEO Stephen Barclay said Saturday morning. “I think I was only half-joking yesterday when I was texting Iain that I half-expected a whale to pop up in the middle of the racecourse.”
(c)2013 San Jose Mercury News (San Jose, Calif.)