|(America’s Cup) Another Oracle win puts Kiwis on the edge
Skipper Jimmy Spithill accelerated his 72-foot catamaran off the starting line and steered defending champion Oracle Team USA to its fifth straight win against Emirates Team New Zealand Monday to stay alive in the America's Cup.
The 34-year-old kept the boat ahead the whole way around the five-leg course on San Francisco Bay for a 33-second victory in the US.
Oracle's remarkable comeback from what seemed like certain defeat has closed the Kiwis' lead to 8-6 and no doubt has all of New Zealand on edge, AFP reports.
Team New Zealand has been on match point since Wednesday, only to watch Spithill and Oracle's improved 72-foot catamaran sail ahead in a determined attempt to keep the oldest trophy in international sports in America.
Oracle Team USA, owned by software tycoon Larry Ellison, has won eight races. But it was docked two points for illegally modifying boats in warm-up regattas called the America's Cup World Series, so it needs three more wins to keep the Auld Mug.
The regatta would be tied if Oracle hadn't been handed the harshest penalties in the 162-year history of the America's Cup. Besides being docked two points, Oracle wing sail trimmer Dirk de Ridder was disqualified from the regatta and replaced by 24-year-old Kyle Langford four days before the match started.
Oracle CEO Russell Coutts said the team's management and skippers didn't know about the illegal modifications that led to the penalties.
New Zealand skipper Dean Barker said the Kiwis remain positive but know they have to improve.
“We still wouldn't trade positions,'' Barker said. “We still would rather be on match point than having to win three more. It is definitely a battle. There's no question the Oracle guys have stepped it up a lot and we need to be able to respond.''
Because Race 16 was delayed a half-hour due to light wind, Race 17 was postponed until Tuesday. That gives Team New Zealand another day to ponder what they need to do to avoid a collapse, and gives Oracle more time to keep refining its fast cat.
Races 17 and 18, if necessary, are scheduled for Tuesday.
Barker had Team New Zealand in the favored leeward position crossing the starting line before Spithill, an Australian, got Oracle onto its hydrofoils, with both hulls out of the water, and sped into the lead sailing across the wind in front of the Golden Gate Bridge to the first mark.
Oracle increased its lead at each turning mark on the five-leg course between the Golden Gate Bridge and the Embarcadero.
Oracle has won seven of the last nine races.
This America's Cup stretched into its 17th day, making it the longest in history. The 2003 America's Cup in Auckland, New Zealand, lasted 16 days and ended with Barker and the hard-luck Kiwis losing the silver trophy to Alinghi of Switzerland.