America's Cup: Oracle take race 13

By Paul Lewis in San Francisco

Oracle team USA heads to the finish line a head of Emirates Team New Zealand to win Race 13 of the America's Cup, on San Francisco Bay, San Francisco, California. Photo / Brett Phibbs.
Oracle team USA heads to the finish line a head of Emirates Team New Zealand to win Race 13 of the America's Cup, on San Francisco Bay, San Francisco, California. Photo / Brett Phibbs.

Emirates Team New Zealand 8
Oracle Team USA 3

New Zealand's cruel residence on the precipice of America's Cup ownership continued today with yet another weather intervention ushering in a big loss to Oracle Team USA.

Winning by the length of Queen Street in the day's first race, Team NZ were thwarted by the clock - failing to finish the race within the 40-minute time limit on a strangely windless San Francisco Bay.

The Kiwis had time to raise New Zealand's hopes yet again with a brilliant Dean Barker start in the re-run Race 13 - but lost out to Oracle's speed downwind and their discovery of a wind shift or two. Team NZ also fell foul of a penalty after a close cross saw OTUSA have to take evasive action - but what really did the damage was Oracle doing 28 knots to Team New Zealand's 22 in 12 knots of wind, gusting to 15.

The key was a rare New Zealand mistake at the bottom mark, electing to travel around a different mark from OTUSA to achieve a split upwind - but their gybe was so slow they lost too much ground, eventually losing the match by 1m 24s.

It was a horror show for New Zealanders but a typical piece of yachting fortune. Time limits seem even more useless than wind limits - why have a time limit when the wind limits are in play? It's not for the sake of safety so why have two of the fastest yachts ever seen on the planet subject to the clock when the wind limits are three times the minimum (of 3 knots)?

It's hard enough beating Oracle Team USA - but the clock as well?

It was like watching Ferraris race on flat tyres. The wind in the abandoned first race - which seemed to be building dangerously towards OTUSA's comfort zone - suddenly dropped away to a measly 9 knots on a foggy San Francisco Bay.

They still managed 20 knots at times but both boats, especially OTUSA's, looked de-powered. On leg 4, Team NZ were a kilometer ahead.

But they faced a new enemy. Not too much wind, not enough wind. The time limit to complete the race is 40 minutes - but it was obvious on the upwind leg that Team NZ were going to fall foul of the clock.

Consider the cruel injustice of this. They win by a street but the America's Cup rules also include a maximum time limit as well as wind limits - and they couldn't make it in time.

Twice before ETNZ have suffered the teeth-grinding indignity of being in front with the Cup at their mercy, only for the race to be called off when the wind limit was exceeded. There was no danger of that yesterday. The usual blistering start and sprint to the reaching mark was like watching two old men walk their dogs to the street corner.

OTUSA skipper Jimmy Spithill got the better of it and blocked the Kiwis well off the mark to starboard. They turned 10s ahead - the margin exaggerated by the lack of wind - but ETNZ, with eagle-eyed Ray Davies doing a fine job in picking up wind shifts , got well ahead on the downwind leg.

They swiftly got to a 500m lead but, on the upwind beat, it became obvious that their vast superiority on the course was not going to beat the inexorable certainty of time.
Spithill can be glad he luffed the Kiwis out to starboard in this race, as it saved his bacon, slowing matters down until New Zealand were not even at the final mark when the 40m limit came up.

Asked about the first race, Spithill said: "We've got to take those things; we're in a position where we have to."

"It's very frustrating," said ETNZ skipper Dean Barker. "We did a good job in the first half of the run but then we opened the door for them. We know we can win this thing we just have to put it together on the day."

But will the wind ever suit New Zealand?

Check out all the photos from today in the gallery below:

- Herald on Sunday

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