America's Cup: Team NZ hit back

By Dana Johannsen

Team New Zealand are two points away from claiming the America's Cup after pulling off a stunning victory in the tightest race yet of the regatta.

After suffering a 47-second loss in this morning's early race, Team NZ bounced back to claim a crucial pressure-relieving win in race 10. The Kiwi crew showed nerves of steel down the final run after less than a second separated the two boats as they rounded opposite gates at the top mark following a tense, absorbing battle up the beat.

Team NZ played the course to perfection down the final run to take a 14-second win, and move to a 7-1 lead in the series.

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Team NZ skipper Dean Barker said the thrilling second race was right up there with the all-time great races in America's Cup history.

"If you didn't enjoy today's racing out there, then you should probably watch another sport," said Barker.

While Team NZ need just two more wins to lift the Auld Mug, Oracle proved in this morning's race it will not be an easy task as Jimmy Spithill's team claimed an impressive wire-to-wire win.

The Oracle boat excelled in the breezy conditions in San Francisco Bay to get on the scoreboard for the first time having cleared their two point penalty with yesterday's win.

Jimmy Spithill did a masterful job in the startbox in the opening race of the day, keeping Team NZ pinned to starboard , forcing the Kiwi boat to slow to less than 10 knots while Oracle pulled the trigger and gunned it to the line.

Leading by four seconds at the first mark, the defenders stretched their lead out to 14 seconds at the bottom mark. But it was the upwind leg when they really seized control, stretching out their lead to over 300 metres as they seemed to find another gear in a heavier breeze.

Typically it has been the upwind leg where Team NZ have been able to overrun the Oracle boat, but today they weren't able to get close enough to force a tactical duel.

Having struggled earlier in the regatta with their tacking, Oracle gained on every manoeuvre upwind - their crew-work getting slicker with every race.

The 47-second loss was Team NZ's most demoralising defeat of the regatta so far, with Oracle leaving the Kiwis with no opportunities to get back in the race. Barker said he always expected Oracle to find their rhythm as the series went on.

"They've definitely stepped up and we knew they would," he said.

"We know this is going to be a battle and we've been saying that right from the start. These guys are not going to give it away easily."

Team New Zealand got away to a much better start in race two. While Oracle were faster over the line, the Kiwi boat was positioned to the leeward end, meaning they had a more direct line to the first mark, just managing to cling on inside Oracle and get the overlap.

They stretched their lead out to 11 seconds at the bottom mark, before Oracle, with their new-found pace upwind came charging back to put the Kiwi crew under huge pressure.

The lead changed hands four times on the upwind leg, before some clever tactical work heading into the top mark saw Team NZ dip just under Oracle as they crossed heading towards opposite gates.

That allowed Team NZ to round the mark at greater speed as they accelerated down the run, quickly giving themselves a healthy 100m advantage.

- NZ Herald

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