America's Cup: Bay thriller swings to Emirates New Zealand


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The Independent Online

Seven down, two to go and still no-one knows when New Zealand will be able to take the America’s Cup away from the Americans after a thriller on the bay went first to the defending Oracle team and then swung back to the challenger, Emirates Team New Zealand. 

Oracle skipper Jimmy Spithill had consistently promised that his crew would fight all the way and fighting they are, even though the scoreline reads 7-1 in favour of their opponents.

The lead on the second race of two, staged in about 20-knots, went first to the Kiwis, skipper Dean Barker winning his first start in four races, passed back to the Americans on leg three, the one on which they had struggled in the past, only for the Kiwis to time their run to the top turning mark perfectly and the boats to go round almost in a dead heat. 

New Zealand tactician Ray Davies managed to position the 72-foot wing-powered catamaran perfectly on the run downhill, forcing the Americans to give way at one point, and that turned into a 17-second margin at the finish.

The first race had been simply no contest as Spithill delivered on the script which everyone had predicted pre-regatta would shape the outcome. Once again he comfortably won the start, once again he rounded the first turn ahead by four seconds and then set off along the San Francisco shore past Alcatraz towards the ferry terminals.

The third, upwind, leg, back to the top, saw Ben Ainslie calling the shots and the crew delivering improved boat handling. Instead of losing, as they did in the early races, or struggling to hang on, the Oracle boat stretched away by an extra 16 seconds on what had been its bogey leg. By the time they turned for the run home it was a done deal and the margin at the finish was 47 seconds.

The next pair of races is scheduled for Tuesday, though the early forecast is for a stiff breeze, with Wednesday being added into the schedule and Thursday also designated as a race day if necessary.