Yachting: America's Cup postponed again

By Bernie Wilson

VALENCIA - Race 1 of the America's Cup was postponed again overnight (NZT), this time because of big waves on the Mediterranean Sea.

Racing was called off just before noon Wednesday local time (midnight NZT) . The big multihulls, USA and Alinghi 5, didn't even leave the docks.

Race organisers will try again on Friday to get in the first race of the nautical grudge match between American challenger BMW Oracle Racing and two-time defending champion Alinghi of Switzerland.

"There was a swell coming from one direction and waves from an offset of 90 degrees to that. We've been out in conditions not quite that bad, but it's heinous," Alinghi strategist Murray Jones said. "I think they've done the right thing by not sending us out there."

BMW Oracle skipper Jimmy Spithill said Friday's weather looked good, although it was still too early to predict whether racing would go ahead. The Australian believes the two teams missed an early opportunity after organisers delayed the start.

"We were keen to go. Ten o'clock was the window," Spithill said. "(But) I've got full trust in (principal race officer Harold Bennett) and respect his decision."

Alinghi and BMW Oracle Racing are trying to settle their differences on the water after the sailing classic was disrupted by a bitter court fight that lasted 2 years.

The weather hasn't cooperated, though.

On Monday, the boats idled for four hours in light, unsteady wind at the starting line of the vast race course, which encompasses 644 kilometres, before race officials called it off.

On Wednesday, officials said waves between 1.2 and 1.8 metres whipped up by overnight winds made it unsafe to send out the big boats. Waves that size, combined with the tremendous loads the boats' riggings are under, could lead to a demolition derby.

Bennett said that although the wind was expected to drop off during the afternoon, the waves weren't.

"We were more than happy with those waves today," Spithill said. "The thing that makes it harder is the day off. Yesterday was a good day to race."

Alinghi skipper Brad Butterworth said late last week that insurance liabilities will force racing to be called off if the wind exceeds 15 knots or waves more than 3 feet.

The second postponement again illustrated the difficulty of trying to sail the America's Cup in the Northern Hemisphere winter. That is the byproduct of a convoluted legal fight between Alinghi boss Ernesto Bertarelli and Larry Ellison, the CEO of Oracle Corp.

USA and Alinghi 5 are the fastest, most technologically advanced boats ever built for the America's Cup. At 27 metres long and 27 metres wide, they dwarf their crews and are capable of sailing at up to three times the speed of the wind.

So far, though, no one's been able to see them in action against each other.

- AP

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