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24 February 2003, 09:57 am
Another Windless Day
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America's Cup
Hauraki Gulf, Auckland

After the frustrations of having race four of the America's Cup called off due to a dearth of wind, there is now a distinct danger that racing could be 'blown off' due to too much wind.
Strong winds and heavy rain look set to affect the Auckland area for the next two to three days and compound race officer Harold Bennett's attempts to get the next race away.

A sub-tropical low-pressure system is sweeping south towards the North Island of New Zealand and looks set to bring strong winds gusting to gale force right across the North Island. The 'hot' air in the centre of the depression holds a great deal moisture supplied by the warm tropical Pacific Ocean to the north New Zealand. Strong winds spin clock-wise round the 'compact low' and look set to bring strong south easterly winds from Auckland to the northern tip of New Zealand.

The crucial issue will be to see how much the central pressure drops in the early hours of Tuesday. The latest run of the WAFS (World Area Forecast System) weather model is predicting a dramatic drop nine millibars in just six hours between 0100 to 0700 NZT (down to 1001 mb). The Bracknell Model from the UK concurs with the position of the low and still predicts strong winds, but disagrees that it will deepen so dramatically, not reaching 1001 mb until late afternoon.

A secondary area of low-pressure is forecast to develop just 150 miles east of the main centre of the low and then pirouettes around the centre to prolong the period of strong winds till Friday. The high-pressure that has wrecked racing over the last five days is predicted to continue to sink south, before clearing to the east.

Many observers have identified this to be an El Nino year, which correlates with the amount of strong south westerly winds that dominated the first part of the Louis Vuitton Cup, back in October/November. A further symptom of El Nino is a lack of rain in January and February in Australasia, which is exactly the situation in North Island with a 'drought' declared in some parts over the last two weeks. That is about to change with some very heavy rain bearing down on Auckland. Localised flooding looks likely by the end of Wednesday…

Thursday is the next scheduled race day and strong easterly winds of around 20 knots look likely, with a rough sea built up from the east that will refract round into the race course in the Inner Hauraki Gulf from the exposed north east.
Mike Broughton
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