Top end conditions and top end tension at America’s Cup showdown

For the first time in the month I’ve been here the decaf capsules in the media centre coffee machine have run out and it’s no coincidence. Today of all days no one is in danger of nodding off and everyone it seems is already overcharged in anticipation of the biggest day in sailing for many years.

The tension was clear at this morning’s official briefing for the America’s Cup final where regatta director Iain Murray laid out the expected weather conditions today.

“We are expecting a south westerly breeze to build to around the wind limit of 24.4 knots today by the time of the start,” he said. “Yesterday we were on the limit an hour before the start before it then dropped.

“We are only looking for a half hour window to get us through the pre-start and then a little longer to get us up to the top mark. “

The wind limits work on a 30 second average for the pre-start then go to a 5 minute average until the top mark. After that the wind limit doesn’t apply for the smoking run down to the finish.

“There’s a confidence in the air that we will be under the limit and will get racing away,” he continued.

One of the problems that the race committee faces today though is that if there is a delay, the flood tide will be decreasing which will have the effect of reducing the wind limits as time ticks by.

“We are looking at the wind limit decreasing by around 0.1 of a knot every 10 minutes,” said Murray.

Not what anyone wants given the normal weather build here in San Francisco which usually sees the breeze increase steadily through the afternoon.

When asked whether he and the teams could be more flexible over the wind limits his answer was a clear ‘No’.

“We haven’t raced in 24.4 knots before,” he said. “In this series alone we’ve seen Team New Zealand up on their side, we’ve seen some pretty hairy moments and yesterday, seeing Oracle Racing’s 40ft porpoises coming off their bows as they went round the first mark sent chills down my spine and that was in under 20 knots of wind.”

“I know we are all anxious, desperate, to see the race and for this to conclude today, but I will not put the risk of these guys on the line.”

So while we wait for one of the greatest sailing moments to kick off, we’re watching the wind like a hawk and staying away from the coffee machine.

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