Race 4 Postponed for the Third Time

Stuart Streuli

Save for a few hands of cards between bored spectators, the only games played on the Hauraki Gulf today were head games. For the third consecutive race day, hundreds of boats ventured out of Auckland in vain to witness Race 4 of the 2003 America's Cup. Just around 4 p.m. local time, as the northeasterly sea breeze started to fade and the clouds encroaching from the southwest signaled at least another 30 minutes of unsettled wind, Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron PRO Harold Bennett called off racing for the day.

While the wind was light, the general consensus outside of the Team New Zealand camp was that a more aggressive race committee, or one that wanted to race in less than 10 knots, might have gotten a race off. "I think they probably could’ve gotten a race in around 2 o’clock," said Alinghi mainsail trimmer Warwick Fleury. "It was light, but there was probably about 8 to 10 knots, so we thought it was OK. I think if it’d been the challenger races we would’ve definitely started."

The lone piece of good news to come out of the day was that Bennett asked to change Monday’s lay day to a race day and received the approval of both teams. But even this good news was muted by the fact that Monday’s weather isn’t expected to be much different. Tuesday’s forecast is promising at this point, but the latter half of the week is expected to bring heavy winds from the east.

As has been the case all through this America’s Cup, Alinghi seemed eager to sail in the light easterly that was averaging around six knots in the early afternoon and tickled double digits between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. The two Swiss boats hoisted sails just before 2 p.m. and did a couple of mock windward legs, while Team New Zealand sat in the shade of their tarps. "There was breeze there so we hoisted so we could do our preparation," said Fleury. "You obviously do want a little bit of time. Maybe they were trying to make a bit of a statement."

Team New Zealand set sails a half hour later and did one run to windward before returning to the starting box. However as the cutoff time of 3:30 p.m. neared, the breeze died slightly and, with surprising alacrity, the two Team New Zealand boats disappeared to the left corner of the course, making clear they had no desire to race in those conditions.

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| Stuart Streuli|

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| At 4 p.m., when Alinghi was testing out its Code O (above), the clouds had migrated over the course area. With little chance of a steadier wind, racing was called for the day.* * *|

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A request to extend the deadline was quickly met with an affirmative response from Alinghi. After a long silence Team New Zealand responded that it would wait until 4 p.m., as its weather team thought something might come in from the southwest. The games then picked up a notch as Alinghi, which will start Race 4 from the pin end, put up a Code 0 on its race boat and did a few mock starts against its spare boat, seeing if it could use the masthead close-reaching sail to sneak across the bow of its tune up boat during the initial pre-start cross. Team New Zealand crowded the box with its two boats and soon it looked more like the pre-start for a fleet race than a match race.

By 4 p.m. it was fairly obvious that with the wind wasn’t about to settle in and that racing wouldn’t happen today, leading to this rather interesting dialogue between Bennett and Alinghi tactician Brad Butterworth’s, referencing the latter’s sarcastic reply on Thursday when Bennett cancelled racing on that day.

Bennett: "So I gather that we’re going home? Brad, I take it you’re bitterly disappointed?"

Butterworth: "Always."

Bennett: "OK, we’re going to fly the AP over A and I’ll put the wheels in motion for racing tomorrow at the normal race time of 1:15 p.m."