Laurence Scott reports on a bizarre racing day on the San Francisco Bay that ended with a must-win victory for Team USA.
Just as the America's Cup Finals appeared to be winding down in San Francisco, the city's winds died down and allowed Oracle Team USA to extend the competition for at least one more day.
In the first of two sailing races this afternoon, Emirates Team New Zealand had a large lead and was poised to clinch the Cup, but the race was abandoned when low winds on the Bay prevented the team from finishing the course in the 40-minute time limit set by America's Cup officials. Oracle survived the day by easily beating the Kiwi team in the afternoon's second race.
Team USA supporters waved flags, cheered, and chanted "USA" as the 72-foot catamaran crossed the finish line near Pier 27/29 where hundreds watched at America's Cup Park. Richmond resident Don Ross ran across the pier carrying an American flag on a long pole.
"We're back in this to win it," he said. Janet Mason, of Pleasant Hill, had wrapped a New Zealand flag around her shoulders to support her boyfriend's native country and was dismayed by the lost opportunity to claim the Cup. "It's disappointing for them," she said. "Although it's part of the thrill."
She was optimistic about the Kiwis' chances Saturday. "They've done a great job," she said. "They seem to be handling the competition in a sportsmanlike way."
The New Zealand team still leads the America's Cup Finals 8-3 and can win the Cup when racing resumes at 1:15 p.m. Saturday.
A second race, if necessary, will begin at 2:15 p.m. The first team to nine points in the finals wins the America's Cup.
Tony and Maria Giannotti arrived in San Francisco Tuesday from Wellington, New Zealand, on a whim.
They decided on Monday it was worth the trip halfway across the world to see their home team in action and booked a plane ticket.
Tony Giannotti said everyone back at home has been watching the races and now his friends and family are envious of the couple that is now seeing it live. After the first race was abandoned because of time constraints, Tony Giannotti said, "I suppose it's frustrating. But it is what it is."
The couple has yet to explore the city because they've only been to the America's Cup Park to watch sailing, Maria Giannotti said.
Before the low winds today, the America's Cup had the opposite problem earlier in the week, with high winds causing race postponements on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.
The U.S. team has won five times in the finals, but was docked two points by the regatta's International Jury before racing began because of illegal modifications made to Oracle boats during earlier exhibition races.
This year's competition has been fraught with setbacks, including the May 9 death of Sweden-based Artemis Racing crewmember Andrew "Bart" Simpson. He drowned when the team's boat capsized during a practice run on the Bay.
Despite the tragedy leading up to the finals, San Francisco resident Barry Jones said watching the races has "been a great party." He said he was "delighted by all the people coming into the city," and noted the friendliness of New Zealand visitors.
Oracle Team USA won the previous America's Cup in 2010 and chose San Francisco as the host city for this year's regatta.