Oracle wins both races today after Kiwis make major mistakes. The America’s Cup goes down to the wire
The most incredible America’s Cup since the day the trophy was wrenched from the New York Yacht Club 30 years ago goes down to the wire after Oracle Racing added two more points to a staggering comeback. Seven wins in a row has brought the home team back from the dead, in with a chance at the trophy that looked to have slipped through their fingers a week ago.
Weather permitting, the ultimate all or nothing, win or lose regatta will now be decided in one race today as the 34th Americas Cup comes to a climatic conclusion.
“I’ve been telling you guys all along, we can do this,” said Spithill shortly after the second race when the prospect of this spectacular Cup face off became a reality.
While the focus now swings to the final winner takes all race, Tuesday’s racing was spectacular.
Winning from ahead has been a regular feature of Oracle’s performance over the last few days, but here we saw just how powerful this team and it’s superbly refined machine has become as they played smarter tactical moves before turning on the afterburners.
Their opponents, Emirates Team New Zealand were crushed today, beaten from ahead and beaten from astern as Oracle took two massive wins. Their performance was flawless and saw the home team win its tenth race on the water to the Kiwis’ eight. On the scoreboard however the teams are neck and neck after the two point penalty that Oracle started with.
Here’s how it played out on the penultimate day of the America’s Cup.
With 60 seconds to go, Emirates Team New Zealand looked to hold all the cards. Ahead of Spithill and to windward, Barker was sailing more aggressively at the start than we’ve seen throughout the Cup as he weaved around in front of Oracle.
But just 20 seconds later it became clear that the reason for the aggressive sailing was that Barker was too early for the line and had to kill speed. The result brought Barker down towards Spithill who was ready to pounce.
As Spithill luffed Barker didn’t respond quickly enough to get out of his way and was dealt a penalty by the umpires. Then came a collision as Oracle and Team New Zealand’s hulls touched, another penalty to against the Kiwis – a huge blow for Barker.
Over the next 30 seconds the picture got even worse for Barker as Spithill screeched off into the distance to round the first mark 17 seconds ahead.
From there on the Oracle was never seriously challenged for the rest of the race as the downwind leg became a procession followed by a perfectly judged upwind leg by Oracle.
The downwind leg was just as perfectly judged by Oracle and the home team took another win, this time by 27 seconds. Another crushing blow for the Kiwis
Having said that, Barker and Co had managed to take ten seconds out of Soithill’s lead on the upwind leg and, as Barker pointed out after the race, considering how much they had given away at the start, was an encouraging performance.
And there lies the best indication of what really separates these two – the start. The Kiwis have been beaten up in all of their latest 6 losses. If they could get off the line ahead, their speed and tactics around the rest of the race is sufficient to see them take an win.
And that’s all they need. Just one more win.
At last, a win off the line for Dean Barker after toughing out Oracle and forcing them to follow down the first leg. At last, the Kiwis managed to hold their own as the pedals went to the metal.
As the pair came screeching around the first mark it was Barker who was not only ahead, but looked in better shape, the boat better balanced and under more control. Spithill meanwhile looked ragged to weather, plunging the bows in and driving the boat under the water.
Barker was able to hold off Oracle and force them to gybe first, a strong tactical position for the Kiwis. The downwind leg that followed was a high speed blast to the bottom, but while the Kiwis kept their lead, they had missed an opportunity to cover and allowed Oracle to tighten the gap to just 7 seconds at the bottom.
Not only that, but Oracle got to take the side of the beat that they wanted at the leeward gate, choosing the mark they wanted, the left hand gate looking up the course.
“Benny and Tom had been really studying the tide before the race – just where that tide line was with the Cone (of Alcatraz, tidal relief),” sais Spithill after the race. “Ben made the call to split right there and we made a huge gain.”
By the time the pair came together it was clear that Oracle had indeed closed the gap. Then came the Kiwi error that could have cost them the Cup.
The call as when to tack would always be a tricky one, but Team New Zealand tacked too soon onto starboard and allowed Oracle room to put their bows down, pop up on the foils and accelerate down onto the Kiwis. From there Oracle could pin the Kiwis out to the boundary and force them to sit in their wake when the two boats tacked back onto starboard.
From there, barring a disaster on Oracle, the race was over for the Kiwis as they had to do two tacks to clear their air.
That was the last Team New Zealand saw of Oracle. By the finish the home team had won by 54 seconds. A devastating blow for the Kiwis and a staggering comeback by Oracle.
Score so far – First to 9
America’s Cup Race 17 NZL USA
Distance Sailed (km) 21.549 21.950
Average Speed (kts) 28.63 29.62
Max Speed (kts) 46.33 44.02
Winning margin 24sec
America’s Cup Race 18 NZL USA
Distance Sailed (km) 22.070 21.669
Average Speed (kts) 31.23 31.92
Max Speed (kts) 47.57 45.79
Winning margin 54sec
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