Oracle hit back as second race is postponed
DUNCAN JOHNSTONE IN SAN FRANCISCO
Team New Zealand remain stalled on match point through a combination of Oracle precision and unruly wind in today's America's Cup action.
And the wait for glory continues for a team and a nation.
That was due to Oracle fighting back to win the opening race of the day.
The second race of the day was called off as once again, the wind got above a safety limit that was reduced to 20.3 knots because of a strong outgoing tide.
Privately Team New Zealand won't be too sorry race 13 was postponed, because they had copped a pasting in race 12.
Oracle skipper Jimmy Spithill promised a fight and a never-say-die attitude, and his boat and crew delivered, claiming a vital 31-second win.
That leaves Oracle still needing to win the next seven races to keep the cup and New Zealand still looking for the one win to get their hands on sport's oldest trophy for the first time in a decade.
Regatta director Iain Murray made no apologies for his decision to call of the day's second race and felt it was "too late in the competition" to change wind limit rules that are proving a huge frustration to both teams and fans.
"I think it's frustrating for all of us [but] the rules are the rules everyone agreed to. This was something that was agreed to some time ago," Murray said, hopeful of some tide relief tomorrow that may allow a double-header – if it's needed.
But the way Oracle are shaping up with their fightback, don't bet against that.
This was an impressive win from a team under huge pressure in a sudden-death situation.
It was another twist in an incredible match that has featured performance shifts and weather delays to agonise a Kiwi public that has been on tenterhooks throughout, once they realised Aotearoa had the capabilities to win this thing.
Spithill's big move came in the starting box and it was a "hook" that proved a knockout blow right there and then as far as this race was concerned.
Dean Barker had been very aggressive coming into the box on the heels of Oracle but got too close to the start line too early and Spithill managed to come back underneath Aotearoa and get the overlap to turn them around,
With the New Zealanders stalled, Oracle sped off to a commanding 5sec lead at the first mark, which they extended to 11sec downwind.
Team New Zealand fought hard coming back into the wind but they couldn't eat into Orcacle's lead, and after the usual furious tacking duel the lead at the top mark was 10sec, with the Kiwis having to execute an costly extra tack.
Team New Zealand split the course from there, looking for something different to get them back into the game.
But it just didn't happen as they were 29sec behind at the bottom mark.
And the worrying thing for New Zealand was that Oracle looked to have the faster boat as well.
Team New Zealand admitted the problems began in the starting box and weren't helped by the difficult starboard entry.
"There wasn't much in it from there downwind or upwind but it was hard to make that deficit up - and they [Oracle] are getting better," syndicate CEO and grinder Grant Dalton Dalton said.
Winston Macfarlane replaced him for the aborted second race because "we need some muscle on board".
Dalton said the team knew the mood of the nation back home, but they were blocking that out once the racing began.
Naturally Oracle skipper Jimmy Spithill was thrilled with the win.
"We are really focussed today, full of hunger," he said.
"We like a challenge and we have certainly got that."
He praised the teamwork that had gone in overnight to refine both the boat and the crew work.
"We are just learning with every race in this America's Cup match," he said.
- Fairfax Media