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America's Cup is New Zealand's to lose

Updated: 2013-09-17 07:26
By Associated Press in San Francisco (China Daily)

Dean Barker and Emirates Team New Zealand regained the momentum in the America's Cup when they pulled ahead of defending champion Oracle Team USA on the fourth leg to win Race 10 by 17 seconds on Sunday on San Francisco Bay.

Team New Zealand, which almost capsized during a 52-second loss on Saturday, leads 7-1 and needs two more wins to claim the Auld Mug for the second time in 18 years.

"I think if you didn't enjoy today's racing you should watch another sport," Barker said.

Monday is a lay day. If Team New Zealand sweeps Tuesday's two races - weather permitting - it will claim the Auld Mug for the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron for the second time in 18 years.

Even if it continues to split races, Team New Zealand can essentially run out the clock against Oracle Team USA, which brought the America's Cup back to the United States in 2010 after a 15-year absence.

"Exactly," said Barker, adding: "There's still a lot of work to do."

Oracle Team USA, owned by software tycoon Larry Ellison, needs to win eight more races to retain the oldest trophy in international sports.

It entered the series with a two-point penalty for the biggest cheating scandal in the Cup's 162-year history.

Oracle led wire-to-wire to win Race 9 by 47 seconds earlier Sunday to seemingly regain the momentum. It was the first time in this regatta that Oracle won consecutive races.

Barker turned momentum back the Kiwis' way at the first mark in Race 10. Oracle skipper Jimmy Spithill had the acceleration but Barker just barely had the inside position heading into the mark and was able to keep his 72-foot catamaran overlapped. Team New Zealand led by four seconds turning onto the downwind second leg.

The New Zealanders extended the lead to 11 seconds sailing downwind, but the American boat continued to show improvement on the windward third leg and took a one-second lead through the third gate.

The Kiwis went from almost even with Oracle to about 200 yards ahead after the American boat chose to slow and dip behind on the downwind fourth leg rather than gybe onto Team New Zealand.

"That was a really big point for us, yeah," Barker said after steering his 72-foot catamaran to a 17-second victory. "We definitely needed it."

Barker kept the lead as he rounded the fourth mark and sped to the finish line.

"It was pretty close on that final run into the finish," said star British Olympic sailor Ben Ainslie, who replaced American John Kostecki as Oracle's tactician on Thursday.

Oracle won Race 9 decisively even after hitting something with its port rudder before the race. The shore crew repaired the top rudder bearing before the start and was making more repairs before Race 10.

Oracle had been getting stomped by the Kiwis sailing the only upwind leg on the course, but that changed since it made changes to its wing sail and jib setup to have the boat better balanced.

Does Oracle wish it had made the changes earlier?

"We wish we'd made them about a year ago, to be honest," Spithill said. "Then we might have found a few more. This is a development boat. Like any racing sport, whether it be Formula One or MotoGP, you're constantly learning at a race mode."

 America's Cup is New Zealand's to lose

Emirates Team New Zealand (left) holds a narrow lead over Oracle Team USA during Race 10 of the 34th America's Cup yacht race in San Francisco on Sunday. Robert Galbraith / Reuters

(China Daily 09/17/2013 page22)

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