High stakes won't be risked on ill wind
DUNCAN JOHNSTONE IN SAN FRANCISCO
Match point in an America's Cup was never going to be risked on the freak conditions thrown up yesterday.
Team New Zealand and Oracle didn't want that and nor did regatta director Iain Murray as he played the only card dealt to him, postponing another day's racing in a final plagued by weather problems.
Apparently it never rains in San Francisco in September. It did yesterday. And a southerly wind came with it, something that hasn't happened since Team New Zealand arrived in May.
It meant the usual course couldn't be sailed because the downwind and upwind legs that dominate it were turned into reaches - sailing across the wind - presenting "follow-the-leader" racing.
Both teams rejected the alternative course offered to them - not surprising given that neither had sailed it because previous conditions had never made that possible.
So the day was declared a stalemate and another unlikely twist in a seemingly never-ending final. Team New Zealand still require one win for glory and Oracle six wins. The match will go on until it is finished - and only when the right conditions allow that in the restricted afternoon time slots.
"There's an awful lot at stake here for the teams and I understand that they don't want to have anything less than a quality race," Murray said.
"The America's Cup deserves quality races, the boats are quality, the crews are certainly quality. Hundreds of millions of dollars and years of people's lives are on the line. The implications for getting the right result are super important.
"We are at match point, every race is critical. The America's Cup is right now the focus of our sailing world, we have to afford what it means to the nations and the teams."
So the final extends to its 16th day, equalling the record for the longest match - 2003 in Auckland when 10 days were lost because of light winds.
"It's not like going to a car race track," defended Murray, pointing out this was just the second day that he'd been forced to call off in the 81 since the regatta started.
"We're in an environment sport in a way ... we rely on the weather conditions and it can be finicky. We set ourselves high goals to run quality races and we have just been caught.
"I know everyone is frustrated but we try to do things through the mutual consent of the teams. We offered an alternative but neither team was interested.
"I feel for everyone that has been caught up in delays ... wind speeds or time limits or the frustration of just the weather."
Murray at least brought a sense of humour to the end of another long, tedious day.
Earlier at the morning briefing where he had predicted problems, he joked about which phone he used when Oracle syndicate boss Larry Ellison wanted to call off races for wind limits or time limits (get out of jail cards when Team New Zealand were leading).
"The red phone for one, and the bat phone for the other one," he smiled.
He'd obviously put his long day out on the bay to good use as he whiled away the time, waiting for the wind to co-operate.
When he returned to the media centre to explain his decision to call off racing, he rolled up his sleeve to reveal a large cardboard watch-phone he'd taken time to make.
"I got the latest ... this is the Louis Vuitton Larry Phone, the new stylish connection."
On a more serious note, Murray predicted good conditions to resume racing today.
- © Fairfax NZ News