America's Cup: Spithill blows too hard on wind limits

By Dana Johannsen

Oracle skipper Jimmy Spithill. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Oracle skipper Jimmy Spithill. Photo / Brett Phibbs

Jimmy Spithill reckons Team New Zealand are to blame for the frustrating weather delays that are dragging out the America's Cup regatta.

The teams again headed back to shore today as the winds picked up on San Francisco Bay, forcing the postponement of the second race.

It was the second day in a row organisers have been unable to get through the full race schedule, while Wednesday was called off altogether because of the heavy breeze.

Video


The disruptions have been frustrating for both sailors and fans alike, but Spithill suggested the situation could be avoided if Team NZ were to agree to Oracle's late amendments to the rules. Oracle sent a letter to the Kiwi team earlier in the week proposing the wind limit be increased from 23 to 24 knots, and the rules altered so that once a race was underway it could be terminated if the winds exceeded the limit. But the Kiwis rejected the proposal. Under the protocol, changes can be made to the rules only if both teams agree.

"We think that would be better for the sport, better for the people watching, but it takes them to agree to it," said Spithill.

"At the moment we're stuck with the wind limits and this is likely to happen again."

Oracle's motives for wanting the limit increased seem more born out of self-interest than public interest. The defenders have been performing well in the heavier air after making a radical alterations to their boat.

Team NZ skipper Dean Barker was quick to point out the irony in Oracle's change of heart over the wind limits, after the US team staunchly argued an upper limit of 20 knots be put in place for the regatta only a few months ago. The issue of wind limits was one of the major sticking points during the safety review of the America's Cup racing undertaken after Artemis Racing's tragic capsize.

The original limit was a frightening 33 knots, but later revised by regatta director Iain Murray to 23 after the safety review.

"That's quite an interesting point James raises there," said Barker with a wry smile - possibly the most animated he has been the entire regatta.

"When the safety recommendations were being discussed, we were very much in favour of the wind limit being 25 knots and at that stage Oracle wanted it to be 20.

"At the time we thought [23 knots] was too low, but we accepted it. It was a decision that Iain took and we were happy to support that.

"It just seems a little bit strange that halfway through a series you think you need to change a wind limit that has been agreed and previously they wanted it much lower. Prior to the start of racing, absolutely, we would have agreed."

It also seems a little strange that Spithill is suddenly worried about the impact the continued disruptions are having on the sport's image now, but less so on Thursday when his team were effectively granted a stay of execution by mother nature after the race was called off just as Team NZ looked to be in control of the start.

The whole argument seems a moot point in any case. Even if the two sides could agree to a new wind limit, Murray said he would take a lot of persuading that it would be a good idea to increase them. Any change to the wind limits would mean the marine event permit for the regatta would have to be adjusted, and it would be up to Murray to convince the US Coastguard that it would be safe to do so.

"I would need to have a compelling story as to why it needed to be raised," said Murray.

- NZ Herald

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_a1 at 21 Aug 2014 10:19:03 Processing Time: 615ms