Dana Johannsen

Dana Johannsen is a NZ Herald’s chief sports reporter

America's Cup: Kiwis will need slice of luck in gripping final shootout

Oracle's stunning fightback ensures this regatta will go down in history

One more chance.

Team New Zealand have let seven opportunities to clinch the America's Cup slip by. Today will be their last roll of the dice. And at this point it will take some serious luck for the Kiwi boat to triumph over Oracle Team USA who have engineered one of the greatest sporting turnarounds of all time. After 18 fascinating, thrilling and intensely close races, the 34th Cup match all boils down to today's winner-takes-all showdown in San Francisco.

Unprecedented has been a word bandied around a lot at this America's Cup, from the pre-Cup controversy and shenanigans to the stunning speed and manoeuvring these boats are capable of, everything about the 2013 event has been lifted to a new level - not always for the better.

Now it is headed for a finish like no other. Not since 1983 has the America's Cup come down to one final race.

Whatever happens on the waters of San Francisco Bay today, the regatta will be remembered as the greatest Cup contest ever.

"I don't know what you guys have been doing for the last two weeks, but we've just been training. The regatta actually starts [today]," Team New Zealand wing trimmer Glenn Ashby joked of today's monumental showdown.

Few outside of Oracle skipper Jimmy Spithill's household would have picked it would ever reach this point.

Trailing 1-8 in the series only a week ago, the Oracle team looked for-all-of-Larry-Ellison's-money gone.

Then the unthinkable happened.

With a series of subtle enhancements to their boat and the rapid improvement in their boat-handling and crew-work, Oracle came back from the brink. Yesterday they pulled off their sixth and seventh straight wins to tie the series at 8-all, dealing Team NZ a major psychological blow in the upwind leg of the second race when they showed blistering speed to sail right over top of them.

Spithill said he never had any doubt his team could reach this point.

"We've come back from a very deep hole, the boys have worked very, very hard and we want this. It's not over, that's the key point here - we've got to finish it off," said Spithill.

"There's this huge wave of momentum we've been riding for the past few days and it just builds and builds."

It is just a shame that for every great comeback story, there must be a great collapse.

Dean Barker will almost certainly cop it if his side cannot collect that elusive victory today. But to brand Team New Zealand as chokers would be dismissive of the remarkable job Oracle have done.

The Team New Zealand skipper said his side was doing everything they can to win, but it was clear yesterday Oracle had a significant edge over them in speed.

"You've got to give credit where it's due. [Oracle] have sailed incredibly well to get themselves back in the event. Today in that second race it was phenomenal; they showed something that was nothing shy of impressive. It was quite amazing - not so much being on the other side of it," said Barker.

"I think it's pretty clear to see that we could have tacked just about anywhere and we could have been behind at the end of that leg. They were going pretty damn well and it was the first time that we recognised there was a condition where maybe we're not as strong as we need to be."

However, Barker maintains his side have not given up hope of returning home with the Auld Mug.

"We're certainly very upbeat and we know we can win. I know we've been saying that for a few days now, but there's an absolute belief in this team that we can win."

- NZ Herald

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