Team NZ crew to keep calm and carry on
DUNCAN JOHNSTONE IN SAN FRANCISCO
Luck is the one ingredient that has been missing in Team New Zealand's final push to grab the America's Cup - and tactician Ray Davies has made Oracle fully aware of that.
Clearly over-hearing voluble Oracle skipper Jimmy Spithill's endless bravado as the defenders' comeback continued to stun everyone, Davies brought some reality to the situation last night.
"Luck is a great thing, luck beats skill every time," Davies said, reminding Spithill just how fortunate Oracle were to stay in the match when the 40-minute time limit expired on the Kiwis' massive lead that would have won the cup.
Race 13, sailed on a foggy Friday, turned out to be horribly cruel. Devastated at being denied by the clock in the lightest airs of the regatta, the Kiwis got sloppy in the subsequent rematch and paid the price, being belted by 1min 24 secs.
That result kept Oracle alive but still needing six wins to New Zealand's one to claim the Auld Mug.
"Obviously the odds are still firmly in our favour at the moment," Davies chirped. "We just have to go out and execute again like we did in that first race to get one and a half kilometres ahead . . . that's pretty good."
It was a point well made, as was Team New Zealand reminding everyone that this was the third time in a tight series they had seen a lead taken away by rulings - two by winds going over the limit and now by light winds turning the five-legged course into a snail trail.
The latest setback hurt Team New Zealand, make no mistake about that.
But what annoyed them even more yesterday was the way they conceded a decent lead next up when the race was sailed in better breeze.
They had regathered themselves, getting a pep talk from team boss Grant Dalton who rejoined the crew after sitting out the time-bomb, and completely dominated the early exchanges.
"It's about being able to put it behind you. You can cry, or you can laugh and get on it with it," skipper Dean Barker said of reacting to the frustration of having the timekeeper deny them their glory.
"We got back into it, we got off the line well and got a lead in the second one."
Then it fell apart, mistakes creeping in as holes appeared in the wind and Team NZ's game.
"We obviously didn't sail as well as we could have. We had another opportunity there that we let go," Barker admitted. "We need to debrief the second race, look at the mistakes we made and make sure we don't make them again. We'll have to make sure that we are on our game again tomorrow."
Luck doesn't come into Barker's equation right now. It's all about performance.
"Luck is one thing you never walk away from, but it's just a case of going in there and executing your race."
Having watched a fourth day go by without the chance or ability to finally kill off Oracle, the inevitable question of choking was raised. Was Team New Zealand suffering vertigo?
"This is the third race now that we have been in the lead and haven't won due to hitting the wind limits or today running out of time. Any one of those three points would have been nice right now.
"But there's no loss of confidence or lack of confidence. We know that we can easily get this done. It's a case of going out there tomorrow and racing hard."
He felt there were enough people within the sailing crew and support staff to get the job done.
"It's a professional sailing team. There are some fantastic athletes in there - guys like Rob Waddell who have been in some pretty tough spots themselves. They are fantastic in this environment.
"We have to keep sticking to the process and not the outcome. We know if we keep pushing hard, things will sort themselves out. We're happy with the boat and the crew, we just have to go out and sail a good solid race."
That was something they didn't do in the rematch yesterday. A wonderful start was wasted on two errors on the first downwind run when they copped a penalty for jibing in front of Oracle and then messed up their entry into the bottom mark, being forced into an additional jibe by Oracle which stopped them in their tracks.
From there Oracle simply sailed away with the Kiwis never getting close enough to employ their tacking game.
There was no need for Barker to check his watch on that one - it only showed an alarming delta as they looked at Oracle's stern.
- Sunday Star Times