America's Cup: Oracle shift blame of wind delay

Oracle Team USA and high winds on the San Francisco Bay today kept challenger Emirates Team New Zealand from the one victory needed to take home yachting's coveted trophy.

The US team rallied to win the race held before winds topped safety limits and caused the second match to be postponed until Friday.

The defending champion shifted the blame for a fourth frustrating race delay onto the Kiwis, saying they want to raise the wind limit but the New Zealand team won't agree.

"It just seems a little strange that halfway through a series you need to change a wind limit that has been agreed to (at the start),'' said New Zealand skipper Dean Barker.

"It doesn't seem right to change any rules halfway through a series.''

Barker appeared suspect of the motive of Oracle, whose catamaran has sailed better in higher winds.

Wind racing limits were lowered after the "huge shock'' of the death of Artemis team member Andrew ``Bart'' Simpson while training on the Bay, but fierce on-water bouts have built the skills and confidence of the Cup finalists who ``are up for'' racing in higher winds, Spithill reasoned.

The AC72 catamaran of Swedish team Artemis, one of three challenger hopefuls, capsized in May and Simpson, a British double Olympic medallist, drowned after being trapped under the overturned structure.

The sophisticated AC72 catamarans sailed by the teams reach speeds higher than cars crossing the Golden Gate Bridge bordering one side of the tight race course.

The postponement on Thursday was the fourth time racing was cancelled due to high winds.

"We want to race,'' said Oracle skipper Jimmy Spithill.

"I think both teams are up for it. You have a beautiful breeze like this in the afternoon and then you have to come ashore; you ask yourself why you are doing it.''

The USA is not being spared the stiff winds of a daunting deficit in the best-of-17 series. New Zealand has won eight races and needs just one more to wrest the prized trophy from the grip of Oracle Team USA owner Larry Ellison.

The defending champions have won four races, but still need seven victories to retain the Cup because they were penalised two points before the start for pre-regatta violations.

"We can win seven more races,'' Spithill said. ``We are confident in our boat and believe we can do it; we almost have nothing to lose.''

-AFP

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