America's Cup: Oracle win both races

By Paul Lewis

Emirates Team New Zealand 8, Oracle Team USA 5
Forget the word "comeback". Oracle Team USA are now in full flight in a charge to wrest the 34th America's Cup back from Emirates Team New Zealand.

Two races sailed today and two comfortable wins - and OTUSA are looking ominously fast. In both Races 14 and 15, the Kiwis were left in the wake of scorching boat speed - at the start, on the reaching legs and the downwind legs.

In both races, ETNZ skipper Dean Barker got over the line marginally ahead but his OTUSA counterpart, Jimmy Spithill, was in a better position. In Race 15, OTUSA showed their new pace - blasting off like a fighter off an aircraft carrier to skin the New Zealand boat to the first reaching mark.

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For New Zealand fans, it was more heart-in-mouth stuff as ETNZ pulled up from a long way behind three times over the two races (and particularly in Race 14) but each time OTUSA managed to cover them and pull away again - winning Race 14 by 23s and Race 15 by 37s.

OTUSA have now won the last four races to be sailed in a row. Team NZ were leading the last three races to be called off.

In both races, Oracle's downwind and reaching speed became starkly clear. They have a faster boat downwind and, as there are two downwind legs, their advantage by a couple of knots is significant.

The other thing is the start - if Team NZ are to win the much-awaited ninth victory, they must give themselves a better chance by winning the start and attempting to control the other boat.

"It's a matter of millimetres really," said ETNZ skipper Dean Barker after the day's racing. "You make a mistake and they just get stronger.

"Then on the downwind leg [Race 15] we just gave away too much distance."

Upwind is still a contest. OTUSA have looked faster upwind in recent races but the Kiwis did enough today to suggest they are more than competitive in that phase, cutting back OTUSA's big lead both times.

In Race 14, with OTUSA Jimmy Spithill having port entry, winning the start and forcing Team NZ wide round the first reaching mark, Oracle established a 24s lead after the downwind leg - gaining 18s on Aotearoa. Upwind, the Kiwis tacked efficiently, dragging themselves back into it, dragging the lead back from nearly 140m to 30m at one stage.

Then a slow tack, OTUSA found some tide relief and the lead lengthened again. OTUSA did two brave tacks to get the favoured journey round the mark - but the Kiwis found some good air and blasted up from 300m behind to within 30m, before the wind literally left their sails and the lead stretched back out to 300m again.

Team NZ had pulled up to 15s behind after the upwind leg but, with the American syndicate finding some good wind and riding the tide well, they stretched the lead again over the second downwind leg - that downwind speed again - and won going away by 23s.

Race 15 followed a similar pattern - Oracle running away before the wind, the Kiwis clawing them back into it. They were 60s down at the first downwind mark in Race 15 - a colossal amount. They did well to get back to 37s but the OTUSA crew are now sailing well and with confidence high.

They are making the right decisions and executing well; they are deciding when to split on the course and when to cover the Kiwis and deciding right. They are also having a bit of luck on their side.

When they sailed into a bit of a wind shadow in the upwind leg, it looked like Team NZ would catch them - but the wind came to their rescue.

Team NZ can still win this - but it is looking increasingly like they need OTUSA to make a mistake. There haven't been too many of those lately.

Even more worryingly, Race 15 was sailed in 16-18 knots of breeze - supposedly the Kiwi boat's sweet spot. But it was clear which boat found things sweeter today.

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- NZ Herald

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