-- America's Cup held hostage, Day 9: Racing was canceled again today as storm winds whipped the Hauraki Gulf overnight, leaving seas so rough harbor police said it was too dangerous for racers or spectators.
The good news is, defender Team New Zealand and challenger Alinghi have agreed to race on Friday, a scheduled off day, when conditions look better. Alinghi leads the best-of-nine Cup match 3-0, but there's been no racing since Feb. 18 as light winds, then storms plagued the venue.
Principal race officer Harold Bennett canceled today's racing after harbormaster James McPetrie recommended it "on the grounds of public safety." A gust of over 80 knots was reported at the mouth of Hauraki Gulf on Wednesday and gale-force winds and rain pounded the gulf all night, leaving cresting, six-foot seas.
"We're not upset," said Curtis Blewett, bowman on Alinghi, the Swiss contender that is in line to become the first European Cup holder in 152 years if it scores two more wins. "I think everyone is doing a good job. We want this to be the best teams in a great race, with no freaky conditions deciding who wins the Cup."
Team New Zealand executive director Ross Blackman said the Kiwis are ready to race Friday when he expects conditions to be "spectacular," with winds of about 15 knots and big leftover seas from the storm.
Meantime, the long string of delays has taken the wind out of spectator operations. Prices for a day on the water watching the races plunged as low as $35 today as charter operators watched their bookings fall to nothing. "People are just giving up," said Fraser Smith of Sunsail Charters.