America’s Cup opener postponed

Rough weather delays the start of sailing’s most prestigious race in Valencia.

Alinghi crew member
 Swiss defender Alinghi, right, sits in the Spanish port of Valencia as the opener is delayed [AFP]

The opening race of the best-of-three 33rd America’s Cup sailing regatta off the eastern Spanish coast was cancelled on Wednesday due to rough weather, two days after it was postponed due to weak winds.

Officials called off the race just before noon, prolonging a frustrating wait for the start for both teams.

The duel between US team Oracle and defending Swiss champions Alinghi – 20 nautical miles upwind and 20 back – near the port of Valenica had originally been delayed as organisers waited for conditions to improve.

The first race was rescheduled again for Friday, in accordance with the rules of the 159-year-old event, sailing’s oldest and most prestigious trophy.

Choppy waters

While Monday’s race was called off because of inconsistent winds, Wednesday’s conditions appeared too strong and choppy for the fast but fragile hi-tech boats.

The Alinghi team, backed by Swiss biotechnology and banking billionaire Ernesto Bertarelli, did not even leave the dock apparently deciding it was not worth the risk of travelling to the race area.

Race director Harold Bennett initially put off the start of the race by two hours until noon because of the unfavourable weather conditions.

“There are a lot of strong winds forecast overnight and offshore and that is going to throw up a swell. So it is more the sea-state that is going to be of concern,” he said.

“I don’t want to put the boats out there if they are not going to sail. I do not want to put them all the way out there and bring them back without a race.”

The unique boats will race after more than two years of sometimes bitter legal battles between Alinghi and Oracle software mogul Larry Ellison’s team.

The legal battles over hosting rights and technology have resulted in two multi-hull boats sailing against each other in a 3-race final for the first time in the event’s history.

Both boats are being raced for the first time and are capable of extraordinary speeds for sailing vessels but are believed to be fragile in heavier conditions.

Alinghi is a catamaran with a tilting mast 17 storeys high.

BMW Oracle, a trimaran, has a unique wing-shaped sail and mast configuration bigger than the wing of a commercial jetliner.

Oracle are looking to bring the cup back to the United States for the first time in 15 years in their face-off against Alinghi, who in 2003 became the first European winner in their first attempt.

Source: News Agencies