Although the 34th America’s Cup may have still fallen short in some ways, there’s no denying that Larry Ellison, Russell Coutts and company have finally gotten what they wanted—some of the most exciting racing the historic sailing series has ever seen.
And on Wednesday, Cup fans the world over may very well have a chance to see the denouement, after races 11 and 12 were postponed Tuesday, when conditions on San Francisco Bay exceeded the wind limits imposed following the Artemis capsize last May.
“I’m concerned about the boats getting home safely,” regatta director Iain Murray said, shortly before deciding to send the defender, Oracle USA, and Emirates Team New Zealand back to their respective bases. “We have a huge amount of wind along the city front. It’s windy and the [opposing] current’s getting stronger by the minute. We must consider that although today is windy, we have more racing to go. When the front passes tonight. we’ll get back to good racing tomorrow and the rest of the week.”
With ETNZ currently leading the best 17 series 7-1, the challenger could finish off Oracle once and for all if it wins both of today’s race, the first of which is scheduled to begin at 1:35 p.m. Pacific Time. However, while early on in the series it looked like the Kiwis were going to roll over the U.S. team the same way they did Artemis and Luna Rossa, the competition is getting tighter and tighter with each race.
The drama is also fast building to a fever pitch, with scrappy starts, heart-stopping crossing situations and even a near capsize for ETNZ midway through the race last Saturday, which Oracle went on to win by 52 seconds. In fact, the two races Sunday—in which Oracle and ETNZ each took a turn coming out on top—were some of the most intense in America’s Cup history, with the outcome hanging in the balance with every maneuver. (To see the two Sunday races, click here ) Race 10 was an especially close one, with the lead changing hands four times in all, three of those times as the two boats match raced their way up the 3-mile windward leg. Such evenly matched competition is almost unheard of in the America’s Cup, which over the years has all too often been a yawner, with the faster boat dominating from start to finish.
“If you didn’t enjoy today’s racing you should probably watch another sport,” said Emirates Team New Zealand skipper Dean Barker, after Sunday’s back-and-forth battles.
“I can honestly say this is the most fun and exciting sailing I’ve been involved with,” said ORACLE tactician Ben Ainslie.
For once, it’s safe to say this isn’t just a couple of guys toeing the corporate line in an event that many feel is losing its soul as it becomes increasingly commercial. These guys really mean it.
Bring on the racing!