WELLINGTON (Reuters) - Light winds played havoc with the final day of competitive sailing before the America's Cup challenger series starts on Jan. 15, with only one of Sunday's four scheduled races able to be started but abandoned after it exceeded the 45-minute limit.
Races cannot start unless the wind is a minimum of 6.5 knots (12 kph), and while the superfast AC75 monohulls have shown they can achieve more than three times the wind speed, they need to generate at least 15 knots of speed to get up on their foils.
Race officials called off the day's racing shortly before 6 p.m. (0500 GMT) after abandoning the first race between defenders Team New Zealand (TNZ) and Ben Ainslie's Team INEOS UK.
TNZ were within 200 metres (220 yards) of the finish line in the race that was shortened to four legs, with Ainslie's Britannia still on their second leg, having been lapped when the time limit expired.
Both boats were off their foils and Ainslie found the funny side as they stalked TNZ while they headed downwind before the race was abandoned.
"It's one of those days," Ainslie said. "The only fun for us was the displacement race heading back down with the Kiwis.
"A bit of old-school sailing."
The British challenge has floundered in the light winds in the pre-Christmas regatta, which included the America's Cup World Series that ended on Saturday and was won by TNZ.
Sunday's racing was part of the one-day 'Christmas Cup' where the teams were seeded according to their placings in the World Series and guaranteed two races each.
TNZ will now not race again until the America's Cup starts on March 6, where they meet the winner of the challenger series that is scheduled to run from Jan. 15 to Feb. 22.
(Reporting by Greg Stutchbury; Editing by Stephen Coates and William Mallard)