|ESPN.com: Sailing||[Print without images]|
SAN FRANCISCO -- Strong wind blowing in through the Golden Gate Bridge and a strong tide flowing out to sea forced organizers to postpone two America's Cup races Tuesday between Emirates Team New Zealand and defender Oracle Team USA.
Lighter wind is expected on San Francisco Bay on Wednesday, when organizers hope to complete Races 11 and 12. The schedule is four races behind.
Team New Zealand leads 7-1 and needs two wins to claim the America's Cup for the second time in 18 years. Oracle Team USA, owned by software mogul Larry Ellison, was penalized two points in a cheating scandal so it needs 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. Regatta director Iain Murray 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 British double Olympic medalist Andrew "Bart" Simpson 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 it would have considered it before racing started, but didn't 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 U.S. Coast Guard.
"We're very happy with where it's at," said Team New Zealand technical director Nick Holroyd. "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 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.