America's Cup comeback: Ben Ainslie helps Oracle Team USA draw level with New Zealand challenger in San Francisco

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As comebacks go, this is worthy of the best scriptwriters down the coast in tinsel town

San Francisco

By over a kilometre, New Zealand's challenge for the America's Cup took a hammering on San Francisco Bay as they saw the America's Cup defender Oracle Team USA draw level at 8-8 after seven straight wins in what should have been a best of 17.

As comebacks go, this is worthy of the best scriptwriters down the coast in tinsel town and is testimony to the work of the Oracle design and shore team, which has worked round the clock to improve the performance of its 72-foot wing-powered catamaran Add to that the cool tactical thinking of Britain's Olympic gold medallist Ben Ainslie, as tactician, and his brother in arms, Australian Olympic gold medallist Tom Slingsby, as strategist.     

If the Americans had not been penalised by two points for violating race rules they would have reached the magic nine after winning the first race of the day.

Once again Kiwi skipper Dean Barker was beaten off the start line and his rival Jimmy Spithill led from start to finish. To make matters worse the New Zealanders had to take two penalties as they were suckered into two collisions as Oracle barged them just ahead of the start.

Race two of the day, staged in perfect 20-knot conditions, saw Barker at last grab the advantage at the start and lead for the first two legs only to see Spithill pounce again as, early on the upwind leg, New Zealand tried to plant a blocking measure on the Americans only to see them roll over the top and control the race from there on.

The Americans have won seven consecutive races, have everything going their way, and are in psychological control of a team that seems to have choked badly after being 7-1 ahead.

Ben Ainslie in San Francisco at the America's Cup Ben Ainslie in San Francisco at the America's Cup  

The boats still seem about even, though they are both very sensitive to any changes in wind strength. And New Zealand had the all-important ninth win in their grasp when leading in a race that was abandoned as the 40-minute time limit ran out.

Now it is pistols at lunchtime, winner takes all on Wednesday, assuming there is not too much wind again. The forecast is cautious. The Americans are rampant. The Kiwis are in as much trouble as they ever want to be.

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