Unfortunate Calm Returns To Cup Races
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.”