Shifting Wind Postpones Cup Race 4
31 minutes ago
By BERNIE WILSON, AP Sports Writer
AUCKLAND, New Zealand - A boring day on the water ended with the Swiss America's Cup crew amusing itself at the expense of the race committee.
Race 4 was postponed Thursday due to shifting wind. The race is now scheduled for Saturday, with Alinghi holding a 3-0 lead over two-time defending champion Team New Zealand in the best-of-nine series.
At times there was enough wind to race in. But with 30-degree shifts regularly sweeping the Hauraki Gulf, it was impossible to set a course and start a fair race.
After waiting two hours, principal race officer Harold Bennett radioed the sloops at about 3 p.m. and told the crews he didn't see the conditions improving.
"It'll be my intention to call it a day, if you agree," he said.
Team New Zealand agreed, but Alinghi's New Zealand-born tactician Brad Butterworth strung Bennett along, telling him the crew had to check with its weather team first.
Butterworth and skipper Russell Coutts were clearly enjoying themselves, laughing and smiling.
At 3:20 p.m., Bennett radioed the boats again to call it a day.
"Brad, I'm sorry, we'll have to go home," he told Butterworth.
"Thanks for that, Harold, we're bitterly disappointed," Butterworth replied with a laugh. "See you on Saturday."
A bemused Bennett uttered a mildly profane rebuke, and with that the boats headed back into port.
The postponement might give beleaguered Team New Zealand a chance to regroup. Before heading out to the course, the Kiwis replaced tactician Hamish Pepper with Frenchman Bertrand Pace, helmsman of the syndicate's backup boat.
The change came after the Kiwis made crucial mistakes in the second and third races.
Skipper Dean Barker admitted there was "confusion" between the key decision-makers on the boat and the weather team in the minutes before Race 3. While the Kiwis chose the left side of the course, Alinghi took the right side and gained immediately from a wind shift. The Swiss led the whole race and won by 23 seconds.
In Race 2, the Kiwis let Coutts come from behind on the downwind run to the finish, and the Swiss boat won by seven seconds. NZL-82 broke down minutes into the opening race and had to withdraw, handing the win to Alinghi.
Relying on intuition and information from the navigator, the tactician tells the skipper when to tack and gybe.
Pace is in his fifth America's Cup campaign — the previous four were with France — and is one of the few foreigners on Team New Zealand. Australian Adam Beashel is part of the afterguard, responsible for looking for wind shifts, and American Clay Oliver designed the Kiwis' radical hull appendage, or "hula," which has yet to give the black boat an advantage.
Only eight sailors in Team New Zealand's full squad previously sailed in an America's Cup match.
Led by Coutts and Butterworth, Alinghi has a core of six Kiwis who helped Team New Zealand win the America's Cup in 1995 and successfully defend it in 2000.
Coutts has won 12 straight races in the America's Cup match, with no losses.
Despite the long odds they face, the Kiwis tried to keep up a brave face.
"The trick is to say, 'It's happened, and it's in the past,'" syndicate head Tom Schnackenberg said. "The hill is actually no harder, it's just five wins. The difference is that we have fewer lives."