Racing was canceled today on San Francisco Bay for what could have been the final day of competition in the 34th America’s Cup. Both the Defender, Oracle Team USA, and the Challenger, Emirates Team New Zealand, were rigged and out on the water—ready to race—but unfortunately the wind direction didn’t cooperate. If this is all starting to feel like a cruel-hearted weather joke to you, you’re not alone. This week has seen racing canceled because of too much wind, too little wind and now perfect wind, just out of the (slightly) wrong compass bearing.
Imagine stepping onto the world stage and delivering a grand-slam performance, only to go home knowing that doom was prolonged, not dodged. Such is the fate of Jimmy Spithill, skipper of Oracle Team USA, the Defender of the 34th America’s Cup. Spithill woke up today knowing that his opponents, Dean Barker and the crew of Emirates Team New Zealand (ETNZ), are on match point in this best-of-nine series, while his own scoreboard advertised the loneliest number.
The pressure is immense, and—after Oracle’s strong showing today—it shows no signs of abating.
I don’t envy Oracle Team USA, Defenders of the 34th America’s Cup. They started this Cup with noticeably slower pace and shakier maneuvers than the Challenger, Emirates Team New Zealand (ETNZ), but the American-flagged squad has worked tirelessly to improve. The results have been staggering: Where ETNZ once commanded upwind sailing, Oracle is now in the hunt.
From an outside perspective, it seems like an absolute farce to cancel sailboat races on days that are best described as perfect. The best sailors racing aboard the world’s most sophisticated sailboats should be able to handle the same conditions that juniors tackle in their Optimists, no? Sadly, it’s not so simple.