Team NZ nearly sunk in capsize scare
DUNCAN JOHNSTONE IN SAN FRANCISCO
Just when Kiwis thought the America's Cup was becoming a cruise, it burst into life again today with Team New Zealand surviving a near-capsize.
Counting their luck to stay in one piece in the opening encounter, Team New Zealand were frustrated in the second race when it was called off while they held a commanding lead heading upwind.
The race organisers had no choice but to pull the pin with the wind gusting above the 22.6 knots limit.
So the day finished with Team New Zealand leading 6-2 on the water.
Team New Zealand still need three wins, and Oracle nine, to claim the Cup.
There are two races tomorrow and the final will stay alive until Wednesday at least.
Team New Zealand tactician Ray Davies confirmed they would have been comfortable to continue racing.
"Absolutely, we were in pretty good shape," Davies said.
The same couldn't have been said earlier in the day as Aotearoa hung precariously in the air at about a 45 degree angle, balancing on one hull with hydraulics failure.
Fortunately, the crew kept their cool to drop the other hull and carry on. But that race was over with Oracle speeding away to a 52-second win.
For the superstitious, could the Kiwi problems be linked to the absence of team leader Grant Dalton who was rested from this race, just as he was in the only other loss?
That might be stretching things too far, but certainly the final has come to life again, especially for the Americans, who were showing much better speed and performance upwind in the first race, following significant changes to their boat yesterday.
Leading around the first two marks and engaged in an attacking duel in the opening race, Team New Zealand's problems struck as they tacked away from Oracle.
Skipper Dean Barker confirmed the hydraulics didn't work momentarily through the tack - the power wasn't there for the wingsail to turn.
"When the wing doesn't tack and the boat does, you've got problems," Barker said later, relieved to get through without any damage.
Not surprisingly the lead went with that mishap as Oracle found themselves 200m ahead and simply sped away as the Kiwis gathered themselves and continued around the course.
The heavy winds combined with an outgoing tide for the first time in the series with the day's action living up to the pre-race predictions that this could be an action-packed day.
But no-one would have imagined that Team New Zealand would come unstuck like that, least of all on their favoured upwind leg.
They could never close the advantage from there and it was considerable as Oracle just kept speeding away on the last two legs for a treasured victory.
Oracle skipper Jimmy Spithill was cock-a-hoop with the improvement in his boat.
"I think we have taken a great step forwards," Spithill said.
He admitted that he was nervous about having Aoeteroa come down on top of him as they were dangerously close, hanging in the air.
"Man, I thought they were very close to going (over)."
Barker had to concede that the Americans had definitely made some gains overnight with whatever they had done to their boat.
"They were chipping away," he said of another tacking duel that had previously been the sole domain of the Kiwis.
Oracle managed to get out of phase around the bottom mark where Team New Zealand lead by 8-seconds and made some gains by going up the middle of the course as the Kiwis headed out to the right.
Every time they came back together it was getting closer and closer and then, almost too close when the hydraulics mishap hit Team New Zealand.
Barker made a great start again in the second race and increased the lead in the downwind leg. They appeared to have the favoured side of the course for their upwind beat - but then mother nature intervened.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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