Light winds continued to plague America's Cup racing on the Hauraki Gulf today. After a two-hour, fruitless wait for a sea breeze to fill, racing was postponed 24 hours.
After three days of gentle winds, AmericaOne and Prada are tied 1-1 in the best-of-nine series to select a challenger to face Team New Zealand for the Cup on Feb. 19. Officially, both sides claim boat speed appears even between the finalists but evidence is mounting that the Italian entry has an edge.
Doubt was largely put to rest in a remarkable sequence Thursday in a race AmericaOne skipper Paul Cayard won despite trailing by almost two minutes early on.
As the boats rounded the second turning mark and headed upwind, luck played into the trailing Cayard's hands. A large fleet of spectator craft stood in Prada's way. Winds had shifted, forcing a course change, but race officials were unable to move the spectator fleet out of the way in time.
Prada tacked to avoid the crowd but Cayard smelled a freshening breeze ahead and sailed into the mob. When a gust came through, he caught up to Prada, which immediately tacked back to cut its losses.
The boats ended up side by side, forging upwind in 10 knots of breeze. That's when Prada shot away from the gray-and-green California entry as if the Italian boat had a motor.
It stands to reason that the Italians, who spent 2 1/2 years and well over $50 million developing their two-boat program, would be further along on sails, rudders, keels and hull shapes than Cayard's team, with half the time and money.
But the series is even after Cayard's remarkable comeback, engineered when he split from Prada and steered into the spectator fleet a second time and fell into a building sea breeze that vaulted him to a 1 1/2-minute lead even Prada's remarkable speed couldn't overcome.
"I told the guys I've been in the game long enough to know you have races like that," Cayard said. "And you have series that go like today's race. You get way behind in a series and you come back. It's the nature of the sport, especially in a place like Auckland.
"What's important is what's going on in your head. You've got to stay upbeat, you've got to keep positive and keep pushing and hope an opportunity presents itself."
Louis Vuitton Final
Best of nine
Race 1: Prada def. AmericaOne, 24 seconds.
Race 2: AmericaOne def. Prada, 1 minute 33 seconds.