Strong winds delay first races to Saturday

DOCKYARD, Bermuda, CMC – Organisers decided on Thursday to postpone the start of the 35th America’s Cup for 24 hours because of safety concerns over strong winds sweeping across Bermuda.

Sailing’s showpiece, which is being held in the island for the first time, is now set to get going on Saturday afternoon.

Catamarans competing in previous America’s Cup races

Winds above 30 knots (34 miles per hour) are forecast for today, leading the America’s Cup Event Authority (ACEA) and America’s Cup Race Management to announce the delay for the first day of the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup Qualifiers, as well as the event’s official opening ceremony.

Significantly better conditions are expected for Saturday and subsequent days, meaning the four races scheduled for today will be added to the race schedule for later days – with the opening ceremony now set for from Saturday at 8:30 pm local time.

Racing is due to take place between 2 pm and 5 pm on Saturday.

Sir Russell Coutts, chief executive officer of the ACEA, said the postponement was not a decision taken lightly, adding that authorities appreciated the inconvenience caused to the sell-out crowd.

Safety was the “primary concern” for organisers, Coutts said.

“We are adding an hour to the race window on both Saturday and Sunday to run extra races with the aim of getting back on schedule,” he said.

Five teams are vying to claim a place in the final against Oracle Team USA, the boat that edged Team New Zealand 9-8 to win the last America’s Cup four years ago.

Thousands of spectators are due to arrive in the island to join locals watching the month-long televised event.

The five boats challenging for a place in the final against Oracle, with 37-year-old Australian Jimmy Spithill at the helm, are: Sweden’s Artemis Racing, led by Nathan Outerbridge; Emirates Team New Zealand, led by Peter Burling; Groupama Team France, led by Franck Cammas; Land Rover BAR, skippered by Sir Ben Ainsley; and SoftBank Team Japan, led by Dean Barker.

Ainsley, a 40-year-old Englishman, who won four Olympic sailing gold medals between 2000 and 2012, is on his fourth America’s Cup campaign, having helped Oracle win the cup four years ago.

Britain has never won the Cup in the history of the race, which began in 1851 around England’s Isle of Wight. That first race was won by the schooner America.

Land Rover BAR won the America’s Cup World Series and they take two bonus points into the qualifying series in Bermuda.

All six boats will race against each other twice, in newly designed boats, and the top four will progress into the challenger round.

The winner will then face Oracle, who are racing in the preliminaries, but whose place in the final, due to start around the middle of June, is assured as the defending champions.

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