More agony for Team NZ as Oracle wins again
DUNCAN JOHNSTONE IN SAN FRANCISCO
Oracle's remarkable fightback in the America's Cup continued today with two crushing wins over Team New Zealand to keep the final alive.
Jimmy Spithill won both starts and Oracle led throughout both races, claiming a 23-second victory in the opening race and 37-second in the second.
That left New Zealand still stalled on match-point needing one more win while Oracle need to win the next four races to keep the trophy.
Crucially Oracle have now won the last four races to not only stay alive but gain the all-important momentum.
No team had won four in a row in this pulsating series before Oracle achieved it today in another do-or-die situation.
Alarmingly Oracle now appear to have a clear edge in boat speed over the Kiwis.
This was particularly evident upwind where Oracle were foiling at 32 knots and Team New Zealand couldn't lift out of the water to be at speeds of around 25 knots in comparison.
The winds were relatively light and flukey in both races with the course full of holes.
Team New Zealand fell into a couple of massive trenches in both races.
The second downwind run of the first race, when they had fought back to within a handful of metres of Oracle, cost Team New Zealand when they jibed away left and just stalled. Oracle sped off and couldn't be stopped.
In the second race today Oracle made a similarly huge gain on the first run, opening a 700-metre lead, and again Team New Zealand just couldn't haul that in.
They fought back upwind, halving the deficit to 32sec and again fought back on the last run but got stuck again with bad wind.
Dean Barker's crew were full of fight but it amounted to nothing.
Oracle tactician Ben Ainslie made some big calls and got the rewards, whereas Ray Davies just couldn't find any magic in the big moments today.
Oracle are backing up all their fighting talk with actions.
Once they established their leads, they simply produced some classic match-racing tactics, covering everything Team New Zealand threw at them.
The starts are becoming increasingly important and the Kiwis just aren't in the hunt there at the moment.
Interestingly, this morning Oracle went through their practice starts six times before the race actually got under way while Team New Zealand chose not to do any starting practice.
Barker was hugely disappointed with the double blow today but put on a brave face.
"It was quite tricky conditions today, there were big variances at the top and bottom of the course," he said.
"We didn't do a good job managing it downwind.
"It was a tough day with two starboard entries (into the starting box). The second start we didn't execute it as well as we could have. You make one little mistake and they get strong."
But he put up some fighting talk that has been going on for the last six days as they have had a chance to close this regatta out but haven't managed it.
"It's right there for the taking. We didn't do as good a job as we should have today. We will look at it and come out and do a much better job tomorrow," Barker said
Spithill was absolutely fizzing.
"What a fantastic day ... really, really good racing," Spithill said.
"The boys were just out of this world today."
Spithill praised his afterguard of Ainslie and strategist Tom Slingsby.
"On a day like today, it was really about tactics and they kept calm, they made the big calls and the right calls."
Spithill said there was still more to be squeezed out of his boat.
"The shore crew worked hard last night and found some extra wheels for the old girl. We can get more, too."
- Fairfax Media