Offices grind to a halt for Cup
DUNCAN JOHNSTONE, MICHELLE DUFF AND OLIVIA WANNAN
Make the most of today's breather - the heart-pounding resumes tomorrow as Team New Zealand sets out to reclaim the America's Cup.
Offices and homes have been grinding to a halt as hundreds of thousands stay glued to the television coverage from San Francisco Bay. Almost a million people rose early on Sunday to watch the action.
And with Team New Zealand skipper Dean Barker calling yesterday's race "the most intense battle I've ever been involved in", the anticipation is building for what could be the last two races tomorrow. The Kiwis lead 7-1, and the first to nine takes the trophy.
So far, the need to work has not stopped people tuning in to races, with 700,000 people watching on Friday.
Many office workers were putting the day's jobs aside during race time, with almost 170,000 people live-streaming coverage online yesterday.
"People might start watching the races at home on TV and then pick up coverage when they're on the move or clocked in at the office," TVNZ television head Jeff Latch said.
Yesterday's second race, considered by some to have been the greatest in recent America's Cup history, saw Emirates Team New Zealand go head-to-head with Oracle Team USA before winning by just 16 seconds.
An hour earlier, in the day's first race, Barker's boys had been beaten by a whopping 47s.
If Team New Zealand win both races tomorrow, they will reclaim the cup. But Barker said it felt as if the coming races were going to be the toughest yet. "It feels like right now, we are in the battle of our lives . . . we're locked in the most intense battle I've ever been involved in.
"It feels like you are just grinding out every win you possibly can and it's hard, it's really, really hard."
Sir Ben Ainslie, Oracle's new tactician who boasts four Olympic gold medals as well as his knighthood, was happy to add his perspective. "I can honestly say this is the most fun and exciting sailing I have ever been involved with. It's amazing racing."
Oracle still needs to win eight more races to take the Auld Mug. If Team NZ don't pull through tomorrow, the next two races are on Friday.
The Royal Port Nicholson Yacht Club is encouraging people to "pack your heart pills and come to the club" for breakfast tomorrow.
"We thought the first few races were bad for the health, then they dumped the . . . heart-stoppers on us and it went to a completely new level," a notice on its website said.
Old Bailey barmaid Rebecca Rubin said race mornings had been heaving with yachting enthusiasts in Lambton Quay.
"We get a lot of men in here before work, having a coffee and staring at the televisions. On Friday, there was standing room only."
Shopping was also abandoned. Auction house Trade Me has seen a noticeable dip in website traffic during the races, with 15 per cent fewer visitors yesterday compared with a standard Monday morning.
"This is only going to get more extreme as Team New Zealand edges closer to the final mark," spokesman Jeff Hunkin said.
The TAB thought the America's Cup was all over on Friday and closed off betting. But Oracle's resurgence has forced it to change tack.
"We deemed at the time New Zealand's chance of winning it was 100 per cent," TAB yachting bookmaker Kieran McAnulty said. "Since Oracle have made a dramatic turnaround, we've reopened the book."
The TAB has Team New Zealand at $1.07 to win the cup and Oracle at $7.
But the odds for winning Race 11 - tomorrow's first race - are dead even, with both boats paying 1.85.
"Things have changed drastically," Mr McAnulty said. "We feel if they were the same at the start of the tournament as they are now, it would have been a completely different story."
Bets can also be placed on the team's positions at the second mark, and the winning time margin.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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