LONDON (Reuters) - The opening races of the America's Cup in Bermuda have been pushed back 24 hours until Saturday due to forecasts of winds above the limits allowed for some of the world's top crews to compete in their high-tech catamarans.
"Forecasts indicate that winds may gust over 30 knots during the afternoon and evening, so with the safety of the sailors and spectators as the key priority, ACEA and ACRM have decided to postpone Friday’s events," the America’s Cup Event Authority and America’s Cup Race Management said on the event website (www.americascup.com).
Crews representing Britain, France, Japan, New Zealand and Sweden are seeking to win the right to challenge Oracle Team USA for the America's Cup, the oldest trophy in international sport, in the crystal blue waters of Bermuda's Great Sound.
They are competing in 50 foot (15 metre) catamarans which can hit speeds of 50 knots (92.6 km per hour) and safety has been a prime concern of the organisers who said the event, including the opening ceremony, would now begin on Saturday.
"Significantly improved weather conditions" were forecast for Saturday and the following days, the organisers said.
“This is clearly a decision we have not taken lightly and (we) appreciate the inconvenience caused to the sell-out crowd. Our primary concern however, is always safety for everyone involved," ACEA CEO Russell Coutts was quoted as saying.
The weather in Bermuda had been perfect for sailing all week, within the raceable limits of six to 24 knots. The gusts of above 30 knots forecast on Friday rank as "near gale" on the Beaufort wind force scale.
Editing by Ken Ferris