After the heartbreak of San Francisco, it is far too early to be talking of America's Cup victory. But Emirates Team New Zealand have made the best possible start in the finals against Oracle Team USA, winning four straight races convincingly.
Thanks to a bizarre new rule which allows the defender to dock a point from the challenger based on results from the preliminary rounds, Team New Zealand is only 3-0 ahead in the first-to-seven series. That still looks good to a nation of armchair-based instant sailing experts, glued to every race on the TV back home.
The wins are particularly satisfying because they have been so emphatic. Helmsman Peter Burling lost several pre-starts in the early stages of the regatta but he has outsmarted Oracle skipper Jimmy Spithill every time in the finals to either lead or have a better position from the start. From that point onwards Burling has kept clear of any attempt by Spithill to turn the race into a dogfight. He has covered his opponent well in the light, shifty breezes, ensuring Oracle cannot catch a fluky gust and close the gap. And that has often been all Burling needs to do, as even Spithill admits the Kiwi boat has been much faster, both upwind and downwind. In the fourth race both boats were even on the start line but Team New Zealand was well ahead by the first mark and won by an incredible 1 minute 12 seconds.
Of course, as skipper Glenn Ashby warns: "We've seen this movie before". In 2013 Team New Zealand were leading 8-1 in the first-to-nine San Francisco finals before Oracle engineered possibly the most remarkable comeback in sporting history to lift the cup. The main difference was Oracle's increased boat speed. Spithill and his team used the days between races to make a series of technical changes to their boat, including the now-legendary "Herbie", a device which smoothed out Oracle's foiling changes, giving the boat greater speed and stability. Oracle never looked back and Team New Zealand seemed powerless to respond.
Yesterday Spithill indicated he was looking for a similar step change.
Everything was back on the table, he told the press conference, and "we can make changes that are going to have to improve the boat and give us more speed". But at this stage of the competition it is too late for radical changes, such as copying Team New Zealand by replacing grinders with cyclors. As the Herald's sailing professor Mark Orams suggests, Oracle's best technological hopes seem to rely on trade-offs.
They can change their rudders and main foil tips to get more speed but would probably have to sacrifice control and stability in their turns. They could also try to copy Team New Zealand's wing trim, which is giving the Kiwis an edge. Beyond that, Spithill's best option is to lure Burling into a pre-start scrap, which hasn't worked so far, and to pray for stronger winds, which previously made Oracle far more competitive.
It all sounds promising but there's still a long way to go. Keep your red socks handy. And don't even mention parades.