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Pair of America’s Cup races postponed

SAN FRANCISCO – Strong wind blowing in through the Golden Gate Bridge and a strong tide flowing out to sea forced organizers to postpone two America’s Cup races Tuesday between Emirates Team Zealand and defender Oracle Team USA.

Lighter wind is expected on San Francisco Bay on Wednesday, when organizers hope to complete Races 11 and 12. The schedule is four races behind.

Team New Zealand leads 7-1 and needs two wins to claim the America’s Cup for the second time in 18 years. Oracle Team USA, owned by software mogul Larry Ellison, was penalized two points in a cheating scandal so it needs eight more victories to keep the Auld Mug.

The wind limit of 23 knots was reduced to 20.3 knots because of an ebb tide flowing out at 2.7 knots. Regatta director Iain Murray said it was the strongest current day of the summer.

The wind gusted just above 24 knots right before the races were called off.

The original wind limit of 33 knots was reduced to 23 knots as one of 37 safety recommendations made after British double Olympic medalist Andrew “Bart” Simpson was killed on May 9 when Artemis Racing’s catamaran capsized during a training run.

On Monday, Oracle Team USA officials proposed increasing the wind limit from 23 to 24 knots, saying the crews were capable of starting races in those conditions aboard their high-performance, 72-foot catamarans.

Team New Zealand declined, saying it would have considered it before racing started, but didn’t feel it was appropriate to make changes this far into the regatta.

Even if the teams agreed, Murray would have to take the proposal to the U.S. Coast Guard.

Murray said earlier Tuesday that the conditions would be approaching what they were the day Oracle Team USA capsized its first catamaran in mid-October in about 25 knots of wind. An ebb tide swept the boat under the Golden Gate Bridge and about four miles out to sea. The churning waves destroyed the 131-foot wing sail, costing the crew four months of training time.

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