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AC35: Challenger Finals Race 7 – NZL leads from the start, barely, then the wind quits and the 25-mi

HAMILTON, BDA – Emirates Team New Zealand finally wins a start, and I think that was going to be the case even before SWE had a brain fart and were across the start line early. After taking the two boat-length, go-slow penalty assessed by the umpires, SWE are behind and one suspects for good. But, to their credit SWE keep it close, even looking faster at times in the rainy, very light (6-7 knots) conditions.

Just before the Leg 3 gate the breeze drops off almost to nothing. Coming into the gate the yachts are side by side with SWE to windward. NZL luffs, forcing SWE to tack for the other end of the gate (further away). NZL protests for windward leeward, and the umps penalize SWE, IMHO properly so.

But there is still hardly any wind, and the yachts are barely moving – reaching back and forth almost at right angles to the course axis on what is ostensibly the downwind Leg 4. At this rate they will not finish within the 25-minute time limit. There is no provision to call off the race when the wind drops below 6 knots. Regatta Director Iain Murray can shorten the course, but when one of the teams is on match point that would be a huge mistake, again, IMHO – in my humble opinion.

Just as I typed that TV commentators Todd Harris (USA) and Andrew Campbell (USA, OTUSA crew) – strangely not Ali and Kenny (is there a technical glitch with the audio link to the commentary booth?) – say that Iain Murray has shortened the race at the Leg 4 gate! The rules prohibit shortening the race before the Leg 4 gate, but even at Leg 4 this is an abomination. Is ACEA that desperate to finish racing within the two-hour TV window to sacrifice any idea of a quality yacht race?

Happily for your Ed. and fair-minded yachtswomen and -men everywhere, the 25-minute time limit runs out with the boats still 900m to go to the Leg 4 gate. Thank goodness, because the race has, obviously, devolved into a farce. For what it's worth (nothing), the Kiwis are leading by 120 meters when time runs out.

Today's first attempt at a race was over at the start when SWE were over early and ETNZ took the lead, but then the wind quit and the 25-minute time limit ran out. Racing is now on hold unless and until the wind comes back up to the 6-knot minimum specified in the AC35 Protocol.

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