Two wins edges Team NZ closer to glory
DUNCAN JOHNSTONE IN SAN FRANCISCO
A change of tactician for Oracle couldn't change the game as Team New Zealand thrashed the America's Cup defenders twice today.
A come-from-behind win by 47-seconds was followed by a massive 1min 6sec start-to-finish victory in the second race of the day.
That took Team New Zealand to six wins to Oracle's one in the series, leaving them needing three more victories to lift the cup.
Oracle still need 10 wins to hold the cup and must surely have run out of ideas now.
Dumping local hero John Kostecki as tactician for Ben Ainslie, the Olympics' most decorated sailor, certainly didn't work any miracles for the defenders.
The Briton couldn't stop New Zealand's march and it's hard to see what can be done by Oracle now.
Tomorrow is a lay day with two races scheduled for Sunday (NZT). Two more are scheduled for Monday but on this form, and barring breakages, the Kiwis might only need one of those.
Aotearoa's stunning dominance upwind was there for everyone to see again today - particularly Oracle as they watched the New Zealanders sail away on the third leg in both races.
The opening race today followed a regular theme.
Skipper Jimmy Spithill gave Oracle another good start to earn the biggest lead of the regatta at the first mark by 9sec.
They stretched that out to 12sec at the bottom mark but then got mowed down by Aotearoa on the upwind leg.
Team New Zealand's master tactician Ray Davies sucked Oracle into a tacking game and that meant the game was as good as over.
Ainslie strangely took Oracle left towards the shore after that bottom mark while Davies went to the right, looking for tidal relief and got an immediate gain.
From there the Kiwis just kept tacking away and Oracle couldn't answer their efficiency in this area, nor their pure speed on this beat.
Team New Zealand eventually rounded the top mark 44-seconds ahead, a turnaround of almost a minute.
The Kiwis even looked to get the better of the last downwind leg and turned right to the finish line with Oracle nowhere to be seen.
A half hour break didn't allow Oracle any breathing space, and with their postponement wildcard gone following its radical use on Wednesday, they had to front up for more embarrassment as the wind picked up from 16 knots to around 20 knots.
Davies and New Zealand skipper Dean Barker got things right in the starting box in the day's second race and gained a narrow lead at the first mark which they never relinquished.
Instead, they just extended and extended it, their upwind advantage proving hugely demoralising for Oracle again.
The defenders had tinkered with their boat in practice yesterday, trying to get a better set-up, but there was no sign of improvement in terms of speed upwind.
Barker was thrilled with the contrasting victories today, putting his hand up for the sloppy start to the day.
"The first start was a shocker. I was half asleep and we paid for it," he said.
"But the guys stuck with it and kept it close.
"That second one, I was conscious of not letting the guys down, so we are very happy with the day."
Asked why they had an edge, he cleverly replied: "It might be the pie warmer."
That was a reference to the spoilers added to the after beam before the final started.
Barker said Oracle remained strong downwind but he clearly wouldn't want to swap boats.
"We have to hang in there downwind. But we are happy with our allround package."
Spithill and Ainslie were despondent on Oracle.
"They have some wheels upwind," Spithill lamented.
Ainslie didn't enjoy his America's Cup debut: "We have to go faster. We have to look at our options."
- Fairfax Media