Team NZ nearly sunk in capsize scare

02:21, Sep 15 2013
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Team New Zealand holds a slight advantage during race one.
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Team New Zealand in action during race two.
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Action from race two with San Francisco city in the background.
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Team New Zealand streak away to win race two against Oracle.
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Oracle in action during race two.
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San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge was hard to see during America's Cup racing on Monday (NZT) with heavy fog blanketing all but its highest point.
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Emirates Team New Zealand skippered by Dean Barker waves to the crowd after beating Oracle Team USA skippered by James Spithill in race five of the America's Cup Finals.
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Emirates Team Zew Zealand races ahead of Oracle Team USA as they pass in front of Alcatraz Island and the San Francisco skyline during race 5 of the America's Cup Finals.
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Emirates Team New Zealand follows Oracle Team USA around the first mark in race five on day three of the America's Cup 34.
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Oracle Team USA and Emirates Team New Zealand tack upwind in front of Alcatraz Island during race 5 of the America's Cup Finals on September 10, 2013 in San Francisco, California.
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Emirates Team New Zealand skippered by Dean Barker warms up before racing against Oracle Team USA skippered by James Spithill in race five of the America's Cup Finals.
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The foredeck crew of Oracle Team USA work on a head sail after losing to Emirates Team New Zealand during Race 5 of the 34th America's Cup yacht sailing race in San Francisco.
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Team New Zealand wave to fans after winning race seven.
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Team New Zealand and Oracle sail past Alcatrez during race seven.
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A view from above the Golden Gate Bridge during race six.
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Oracle cross the finish line well ahead of Team New Zealand in race nine.
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Team New Zealand and Oracle race in front of a giant cruise ship and the Bay Bridge during race nine.
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Action from race 10 of the America's Cup final.
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Team New Zealand lead Oracle during race 10 of the America's Cup.
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Team New Zealand crosses the finish line ahead of Oracle to win Race 11.
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Action from Race 11.
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Team Emirates New Zealand skipper Dean Barker talks with his crew after the scheduled second race of the day was postponed due to high winds.
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Emirates Team New Zealand skipper Dean Barker celebrates after defeating Oracle Team USA skippered by James Spithill in race 11 during the America's Cup Finals.
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Emirates Team New Zealand skipper Dean Barker celebrates after defeating Oracle Team USA skippered by James Spithill in race 11 during the America's Cup Finals.
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Emirates Team New Zealand skipper Dean Barker celebrates after defeating Oracle Team USA skippered by James Spithill in race 11 during the America's Cup Finals.
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Oracle lead Team New Zealand during Race 12 of the America's Cup.
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Oracle and Team NZ speed past the Golden Gate Bridge during Race 12 of the America's Cup.
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Team NZ chases down Oracle during the early part of Race 13, which was eventually abandoned.
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Fog descends on the race course on San Francisco Bay as Team NZ awaits the start.
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Team New Zealand cross in front of Oracle on the second leg in Race 13.
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Team NZ and Oracle sail side-by-side before the start of Race 13, with the Bay Bridge in the backdrop.
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Team New Zealand and Oracle compete during Race 13, won by Oracle.
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Oracle take the lead in race 14 of the America's Cup.
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Team NZ and Oracle race in front of the Golden Gate Bridge during Race 14 of the America's Cup.
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Team NZ in action in Race 15.
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Team NZ attempt to chase Oracle down in Race 15.
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Action from race 16 of the America's Cup.
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Action from race 16 of the America's Cup.
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Sir Ben Ainslie of Oracle Team USA walks off the stage from the dock-out show before going out to race against Emirates Team New Zealand in race 17.
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Oracle sails ahead of Team New Zealand on their way to winning race 17.
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Oracle celebrate winning race 17.
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An anguished Dean Barker with head in hands after the Team New Zealand lost race 18.
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Oracle acknowledge the crowd after winning race 18.
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Oracle streak away from Team New Zealand to win race 18.
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Oracle owner Larry Ellison celebrates after his team won race 18.
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Race 19 begins.
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Team New Zealand battles Oracle during race 19.
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Team New Zealand battles Oracle during race 19.
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Oracle wins race 19, completing an amazing comeback and retaining the America's Cup.
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Oracle wins race 19, completing an amazing comeback and retaining the America's Cup.
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Oracle celebrate after winning Race 19, completing an amazing comeback and retaining America's Cup.
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Oracle celebrate after winning Race 19, completing an amazing comeback and retaining America's Cup.
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Team New Zealand battles Oracle during race 19.
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Oracle celebrate after winning Race 19, completing an amazing comeback and retaining America's Cup.
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James Spithill celebrates with the America's Cup.
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James Spithill celebrates with the America's Cup.
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A dejected Dean Barker waves to fans.
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Oracle skipper Jimmy Spithill raises the America's Cup.
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Oracle tatician Sir Ben Ainslie drinks champagne from the America's Cup.
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Oracle CEO Larry Ellison holds the America's Cup trophy aloft.

Team New Zealand's America's Cup campaign literally hung on a knife-edge today with skipper Dean Barker feeling only divine intervention prevented a disaster.

The near capsize in race eight this morning saw the Kiwis lose out and allow Oracle to come back into the equation with a win by 52 seconds.

Team New Zealand will take the loss, and thankfully they've still got their boat, Aotearoa, in one piece to fight on tomorrow. That will be crucial after today's second race was called off because of winds exceeding the 22.6 knots limit. 

Team New Zealand lead 6-2 on the water. The Kiwis need three more wins to claim the Cup and Oracle now need nine to retain it.

All the focus in today's post-racing press conference fell on the near capsize, a balancing act on the third leg that must have had a whole nation trying to add their weight to right the titling catamaran.

"I think we were as close as you could ever get to having the boat on its side," a relieved Barker said of the drama that came in a close tacking duel with Oracle.

The possible consequences weren't lost on him.

"We made one mistake that cost us the race and it came very, very close to costing us a lot more than that."

Asked how they managed to salvage the situation, Barker smiled, moved his eyes skywards and said: "I think we had someone looking down on us that gave us a little help."

He revealed the team had "been in that situation plenty of times" in the smaller AC45s "but that's by far the closest we have been to a capsize in the 72".

Barker put the fault down to crew work. The complicated co-ordination procedure required to tack these massive boats had come unstuck with an extremely late decision to tack away when they had initially felt they would be able to cross in front of Oracle. 

The hydraulic power needed to change the wingsail's direction briefly wasn't there and it was stuck pointing the wrong way.

Barker, at the helm, managed to recover the situation as the crew got their collective effort back on track just in time.

"The boats require real co-ordination between the guys. Normally in an open course you have time to prepare and get all the guys in place. There are times when you rush things and you might miss and the timing is really out. When your timing is out, it's very hard to catch things up."

Oracle skipper Jimmy Spithill said the drama unfolded right in front of him as he was contemplating an aggressive move, aware that Team New Zealand were under pressure on the cross as the boats came together.

"Initially we were going to go for a hook and suddenly that didn't look that great ... so at the last minute so we just bailed out. I was surprised, I thought they were going to go over."

The consequences could have been catastrophic to a campaign that had been cruising along until now.

A capsize would certainly have ended in considerable damage though there was the belief, because it was happening at a comparatively low speed, it would have been a "soft" capsize, with the boat probably resting on its sail rather than turning completely upside down.

But it has certainly added another twist to a remarkable series and Oracle, having made adjustments to their boat in yesterday's lay-day, were quick to claim some advantage, not just on the scoreboard but also the mindset of the match.

"I think we have gained a lot and we've improved our boat, we have come from behind on the upwind leg and passed," Spithill said.

"That's a huge step for our team and a huge confidence-booster. It's exactly what we need.

"Yesterday it was a never-give -up attitude... what can we do to improve? The guys have already got more ideas and they will work all night again and we will come out tomorrow to step it up more."

After the capsize scare in the first race, Team New Zealand made the point that Aotearoa was good enough not just to start the next race, but also dominate it, again winning the start and rounding marks one and two in front until the officials called off the race because the wind limits got too high.

Barker was philosophical about that.

"The limits are the limits and we knew that coming in here and we respect that. If the wind triggers the [abandonment] call, that's fine, we accept that.

"The second one felt tight but we felt we were in a good spot, it would have been an interesting race.

"We will come out tomorrow absolutely full on to make sure we win some races."

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Team New Zealand
HANGING ON: Team New Zealand came desperately close to capsizing today.

Fairfax Media