​America’s Cup Slows to Crawl Over Wind

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September 24, 2013

America’s Cup slows to a crawl in a sport that relies on wind and tides that don’t always cooperate, and race 14 was postponed Saturday as a result. That forced Emirates Team New Zealand and defending champion Oracle Team USA back to shore.

Regatta director Iain Murray said organizers hadn’t seen wind from that direction all summer and didn’t want to send the high-performance, 72-foot catamarans into skewed conditions with so much at stake.

“It wasn’t the right day today,” Murray said.

“There’s an awful lot at stake here for these teams and I understand that they don’t want to have anything less than a quality race,” Murray added. “The America’s Cup deserves quality races. The boats are quality. The crews are certainly quality. This is representing hundreds of millions of dollars and years of people’s lives here on the line. The implication for getting the right result is super important.”

A front that drenched San Francisco with late-morning rain brought wind from the south. It never swung back to the west-southwest breeze the course is set up for, between the Golden Gate Bridge and the Embarcadero.

Had a race started in those conditions, it would have been a sprint across the wind devoid of match-racing tactics. Murray said the teams were given the choice of using an alternative a north-south course, but they declined because they’d never practiced on that course.

The Kiwis have been sitting on match point since Wednesday, leading 8-3 and needing one more win to wrest the oldest trophy in international sports away from software tycoon Larry Ellison.

There’s no doubt that many of the 4.5 million people in New Zealand — not to mention the thousands of Kiwis who jam the waterfront here — want to see their boys wrap it up as soon as possible. There’s also the matter of fans having to re-book international flights, and some are losing their hotel rooms because of Oracle Open World, at which Ellison is scheduled to give the welcome keynote speech Sunday evening.

The stakes are high for Oracle Team USA, as well, since one more loss will see the America’s Cup sail away from American shores for the third time since 1983. Docked two points in a cheating scandal, the well-funded powerhouse still needs to win six races to keep the Auld Mug. Oracle has won four of the last six races as it’s improved its sailing technique and made changes to its black cat.