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Lack of wind delays Race 4 a second time

©Associated Press

February 22, 2003

AUCKLAND, New Zealand -- The fickle Hauraki Gulf was at it again.

Race 4 of the America's Cup between Alinghi of Switzerland and two-time defending champion Team New Zealand was postponed because of practically no wind. The race committee will try for a third time to get the race in on Sunday (today EST), though the forecast is for light wind.

The race first was called off Wednesday because wind shifts of up to 30 degrees made it impossible to set a course. Alinghi has a 3-0 lead over two-time defending champion Team New Zealand in the best-of-nine series.

The 80-foot sloops did not go out on the water. With just 4 knots of wind at 9:10 a.m. -- four hours before the scheduled start -- principal race officer Harold Bennett told the crews to stay in port until the conditions changed.

With 2 knots at 12:20, he called it off. "All around here, it's absolutely flat," he said from the committee boat on the otherwise empty gulf.

Forecasts called for wind of between 7 and 11 knots from the south-southwest, changing to a northeasterly sea breeze later in the day. Those breezes often cancel out each other over the gulf.

Alinghi's shore crew killed time by playing basketball in front of its boat sheds, and the Kiwis sent out crew members on a tender to acknowledge the thousands of New Zealanders lining the waterfront and in the spectator fleet.

Three years ago, four racing days were lost because of light wind on the gulf, and it took two weeks to get in five races. The Kiwis swept Italy's Prada Challenge.

Meanwhile, Prince Albert of Monaco said his small Mediterranean principality would not host the next America's Cup if Alinghi succeeds in returning the trophy to Europe for the first time in 152 years.

"We had thought about Alinghi, but a quick analysis showed that while it would be a wonderful event, it is just too big for Monaco to accommodate," Prince Albert said.

"We know the approximate size and the logistics needed for the Cup, and we couldn't do it."

If Alinghi wins the series, it would be the first America's Cup defender from a country that has no coastline. Alinghi would consider ports on the Mediterranean and Atlantic for the next regatta, probably in 2007.

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