Un­for­tu­nate Calm Re­turns To Cup Races

The Washington Post Sunday - - Sunday Morning On The Air - By An­gus Phillips

VA­LEN­CIA, Spain, April 21 — Mediter­ranean breezes col­lapsed again Satur­day, and Amer­ica’s Cup rac­ing fell back into a wind­less hole af­ter spir­ited com­pe­ti­tion Fri­day.

Five of six sched­uled race days now have been scrubbed for lack of wind since the re­gatta opened Mon­day, lead­ing one ir­rev­er­ent Cup fol­lower to cal­cu­late that at that rate, chal­lenger round robins won’t be over till July 20, a month af­ter the fi­nal Cup Match is due to start. Was it a mis­take to pick Va­len­cia for the Cup? “No, no, no,” said Mar­cus Hutchin­son, spokesman for or­ga­nizer AC Man­age­ment, which promised re­li­able winds here when the site was se­lected. “It’s a great place.” He con­ceded that an April start, be­fore sum­mer weather pat­terns set in, may have been op­ti­mistic, “But it’s too early to tell.”

Eleven chal­lenger teams spent three hours bob­bing on calm seas. Hun­dreds of spec­ta­tor boats turned out for week­end fes­tiv­i­ties but found lit­tle to watch. On Swe­den’s Vic­tory, the crew held a mock Ping-Pong tour­na­ment be­low decks, us­ing balled-up sand­wich wrap­pers for balls and their hands for pad­dles.

On BMW Or­a­cle, bil­lion­aire owner Larry El­li­son had pizza, ba­nana cake and ice cream de­liv­ered from his per­sonal ocean liner, 400-foot-long Ris­ing Sun, which loomed nearby with no pas­sen­gers vis­i­ble.

The em­bar­rass­ment may ease Sun­day, when rain and 10-knot east­erly winds are fore­cast. That’s plenty of wind for rac­ing. But or­ga­niz­ers are run­ning out of time to cram in the two round robins. A hun­dred races re­main to be run with 15 days left. Even with two races a day, as or­ga­niz­ers plan, that leaves five ex­tra days for bad weather.

On May 7, the field is to be cut to four semi­fi­nal­ists. Sur­vivors have just a week from then to pre­pare for best-of-nine semi­fi­nals May 14, less if round robins run over. Sailors cred­ited of­fi­cials for not run­ning races. “We had enough wind to sail,” said David Carr of Swe­den’s Vic­tory, “but there were big holes in the breeze. We were see­ing any­where from 41⁄ to

2 7 or 8 knots, which doesn’t make a fair race course.”

“There’s ob­vi­ously pres­sure on the race com­mit­tee to get some­thing go­ing,” said Ray Davies, Team New Zealand’s strate­gist. “They’ve done a good job not send­ing us off in bad con­di­tions.”

The lone ben­e­fi­ciary of the de­lays is Ital­ian en­try Plus 39, which broke its only mast in a col­li­sion two weeks ago and has been us­ing an old bor­rowed one. Satur­day, re­pairs were com­pleted on the bro­ken mast and Plus 39 was back on form.

“Hope­fully this [the de­lays] will fade to a dis­tant me­mory soon,” skip­per Iain Percy said, “and the only peo­ple to re­al­ize a ben­e­fit will be us.”

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