Dana Johannsen is the NZ Herald's chief sports reporter

Yachting: Wind limits tipped to deepen Cup woes

Emirates Team New Zealand AC72. Photo / Chris Cameron
Emirates Team New Zealand AC72. Photo / Chris Cameron

While it is hoped the America's Cup will be back on track by the end of the week, the weather gurus are warning the wind limits imposed for the regatta may further upset the scheduling.

The masterminds behind this year's America's Cup had promised weather delays would be a thing of the past because the high-powered AC72 catamarans are capable of sailing in a massive wind range of 4 to 33 knots.

But that was hastily reassessed following Artemis' fatal training accident two months ago and the upper limit reduced to 20 knots for July, 21 knots for August and 23 knots for September.

The impact of the new limit was felt on the very first day of the regatta, when Saturday's fleet parade and time trial were cancelled due to strong winds.

Team New Zealand's weather guru Roger "Clouds" Badham believes we can expect further delays in the coming weeks.

"The wind limits will be playing a part for sure, they are restrictive," said Badham.

"As soon as you get into the real typical July day, the Bay breeze can accelerate very, very rapidly at that point."

Officials look at the average wind-speed for just 30 seconds prior to the start of racing, which does not allow enough time for any big wind gusts to level out.

Badham said the race committee also measure right in front of the Golden Gate Bridge - the windiest part of the race course.

"They're measuring right in the axis of the strongest breeze, so if it is over the limit, they're going to find it," he said.

"With the wind readings we have around the edge of the Bay, then probably you wouldn't lose many days, but the fact is because we're measuring right in windiest point, then we will lose a few days, for sure."

With the finer details for these one-boat races still to be worked through, it is not known if race management will re-schedule races in which one of the opponents has already withdrawn if there is a weather delay.

Artemis, who have indicated they are unlikely to take the startline in any of their round robin matches, have previously said they are happy for their opposition to be awarded the point without having to complete the course, but no official rules have been put in place around this yet.

What will happen if ...

Team New Zealand/Luna Rossa's protest is dismissed?

The regatta should get back on track.

Luna Rossa have intimated that they would withdraw from the event if the jury do not rule in their favour this week, but skipper Max Sirena appeared to back down from those threats at the skipper's press conference at the weekend.

While the Italians boycotted Monday's opening race against Team New Zealand, they are expected to return to the competition once a decision has been made. All they wanted was a chance to argue their case before the jury and believed it would look as if they endorsed the current rules by competing under them before their protest was heard.

However, team owner Patrizio Bertelli is a passionate character and you still cannot completely rule out him withdrawing his team.

Team NZ have said that whatever the outcome, they will accept the jury's decision and get out on the water.

Their protest is upheld?

Things could become even messier.

As the new rudder stipulations formed part of regatta director Iain Murray's 37 safety measures which he put forward in his application to the Coastguard for a marine event permit, he has warned that if the jury rules in Team NZ's favour, it could mean no event.

The Coastguard granted the permit on the basis that if anything in the safety plan changes, they must be notified immediately and make an assessment of the overall safety of the event.

Murray said he couldn't "with his hand on his heart" tell them that he thinks it will be safe if his new rudder regulations aren't upheld. Without a permit, no regatta.

But in spite of Murray's threats,most seem to think the America's Cup will still go ahead.

Scuttling the event will benefit no one, and there are likely to be urgent backroom negotiations among officials to reach a resolution.

- NZ Herald

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