By BERNIE WILSON AP Sports Writer
VALENCIA, Spain — The opening race of the 33rd America’s Cup between two-time defending champion Alinghi of Switzerland and American challenger BMW Oracle Racing was postponed Monday because of unsteady wind.
The giant multihulls USA and Alinghi 5 floated idly near the start line, well off the Valencia coast, for nearly four hours in the cold before the race was called off.
“Last night and again this morning, I was convinced (we would sail),” said Ernesto Bertarelli, Alinghi’s president and helmsman. “But from 10 o’clock this morning, the meteorologists told us the chances weren’t going to improve.
“We’re going to have to wait.”
Officials will try again on Wednesday to get in Race 1 of the best-of-three series. However, BMW Oracle meteorologist Chris Bedford was only “hopeful” the race would get under way then.
“In the afternoon it could turn into a sea breeze,” said Bedford, who expects choppier conditions after a new weather front pushes through on Tuesday. “(But) for sure today it was the right call.”
The teams are finally settling their differences on the water after the sailing classic was disrupted by a bitter court fight that lasted 2½ years.
Monday’s conditions illustrate how difficult this regatta could be.
There were reports throughout the late morning and early afternoon that there was 6½ to 10 knots of wind at the top mark. The problem was, that mark was 20 miles from the starting line, so the two areas were in different weather patterns.
“The conditions just weren’t good,” Bertarelli said. “It’s the winter. Ideal conditions in Valencia would have been May — that’s what we asked initially, but we were forced in February.”
There was little, if any wind, at the starting line.
The entire race course encompasses 400 square miles.
“It’s a big ask to get that much runway that has consistent wind direction,” said Bedford, a veteran of eight America’s Cups. “It’s going to be quite difficult.”
Because Alinghi and BMW Oracle Racing couldn’t agree to rules for a conventional regatta involving several challengers sailing for the right to meet the defender, it defaulted to a rare head-to-head showdown, or Deed of Gift Match.
The Deed of Gift, the 1887 document that governs the event, calls for a best-of-three series. Races 1 and 3, if necessary, are 20 miles into the wind and 20 miles back. The course for Race 2 will be a triangle with 13-mile legs, the first into the wind and the next two across it.
Despite the ponderous court fight between billionaires Bertarelli and Larry Ellison of Oracle Corp., this match has been an eagerly anticipated showdown between two of the fastest, most powerful sailboats ever built.
The boats are capable of sailing three times the speed of the wind — when there is wind.
AP Sports Writer Paul Logothetis contributed to this report.