America's Cup: Higher winds than expected

By Paul Lewis

Emirates Team New Zealand before the 13th race.Photo / AP
Emirates Team New Zealand before the 13th race.Photo / AP

It could be a good day for Emirates Team New Zealand - even as more focus goes on lengthening the 34th America's Cup past its original finish date on Sunday.

The light winds forecast (10-15 knots) have already grown into higher winds than expected. OTUSA have replaced their bowsprit meaning they were expecting lighter winds - and could get ambushed by the heavier than expected breezes.

However, it is impossible to tell that before they start racing and OTUSA's comeback is such that attention is now being paid to the possibility of extending the regatta - and maybe even scheduling a day off for both teams to do essential maintenance.

"We don't want to end this with an accident," said regatta director Iain Murray on the prospect of Oracle Team USA's comeback extending the Cup past its original finishing date of September 22. The prospects for today's racing and OTUSA's comeback also provoked discussion of a longer regatta than anticipated for a team to win nine races.

Murray said he would like to talk to both OTUSA and Emirates Team New Zealand if that was the case, as the boats had been going through a hard regatta with enormous loads put on them.

Even if the regatta was lengthened, both teams might want to take a day off to make sure boats were in good shape for racing.

"Our intention is that we have racing every day," said Murray of the organisers' intent to finish the regatta by catching up lost time. "But I would like to have discussions with the crews and whether they are happy with racing these boats. We don't want to end this with an accident.

"We do have to keep in mind that these are extremely high-performance boats and we are putting more loads on them than ever - tacking, gybeing, foiling gybes round the bottom marks; we are putting extremely high loads on the boats."

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Murray said they had also started discussions with the US Coast Guard about extending the event's permit if necessary and "they are working with us on that".

"I have been in touch with the crews on the various loads and safety issues," said Murray. "I have not been blindfolded by the [exciting] competition. At the end of the day, in my endeavours, safety is first and foremost - and the crews are doing incredible things with these boats.

"We saw it with New Zealand twice - when they did that nose dive and that near capsize," said Murray, "and we don't want to lose sight of the fact, or get overrun by all the good things happening out there, that we need to make sure the boats are getting proper maintenance.

"To expect we can sail these boats every day and not take some time is maybe unrealistic; they may need a day to catch up."

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