They live to fight another day. With the challenger Emirates Team New Zealand leading the defender Team Oracle USA by eight races to one and needing just one more win to rip the America’s Cup away and take it home, the start of what could have been the decider was shut down as the boats crossed the start line.
The Kiwis were leading, but the wind was gusting, and race officer John Craig, aided by race director Iain Murray pulled the pin. Oracle had also called for a penalty to be imposed on New Zealand – it would have been rejected – and the crew of the New Zealand 72-foot wing-powered catamaran was frantically applying sticky tape to some hull damage when the clock ran out on waiting time.
All being well, there will be an attempt at two more races around San Francisco Bay on Thursday. It means there will be even more absenteeism in Cup-struck New Zealand, more nerve-jangling do or die for the American defender, and more call for calm and cool from the Kiwis.
The one race of the day saw ETNZ claim the start, establish the early lead, and, apart from being out of phase with the upwind manoeuvres, lead from start to finish. Oracle, with tactician Ben Ainslie engineering substantial gains on the fourth of the five legs, halved the lead at one point, but ETNZ was 15 seconds ahead at the finish.
The rules, which had substantially reduced the maximum wind strengths after the training crash in which British Olympian Andrew Simpson died, combined with a tidal factor which pulled that limit down from 23 knots of wind to 20, then took over. If the computers on the committee boat are flashing “No” then the race officers have no choice.