Defending America's Cup champions, Oracle Team USA, withdraw from race six

 

Four defeats down, the America's Cup defender, Oracle Team USA, retired hurt from the race track on San Francisco Bay, declining to contest race six against their gritty challengers from Emirates Team New Zealand.

Because of an early two-point penalty, that means Oracle went, looking both glum and thunderous, into the clubhouse down by 4 to minus 1 in the race to be first to notch up five wins.

Each team can call for one postponement and skipper Jimmy Spithill explained: “We're going back to regroup,” an indication of the psychological blow which the race defeat had inflicted.

The next pair of races is scheduled for Thursday and, before being the man to throw in the towel on Tuesday, something never seen in an America's Cup, tactician John Kostecki had said: “Today is going to be a pivotal day.”

Having gone home to smiles and the psychological boost of breaking their duck on Sunday the question being asked was whether that fourth race win had been swings and roundabouts or the turning of the tide.

The question on Tuesday was whether Oracle just having to weather the storm or was facing the deluge. And it was a tactical decision which was at the centre of the heartbreak.

The conventional wisdom is that, as in motor racing, whoever can take the advantage at the first bend can make life very difficult for anyone behind, but in sailing there are different tracks available to competitors on different sides of the course.

So, having been outgunned for the third time in succession at the start, the Kiwis have twice made a successful comeback, twice on the Oracle nemesis of the third, upwind leg.

The defenders were nine seconds ahead as they rounded the big inflatable buoy which marks that third leg start when they took the unusual step of executing almost a handbrake turn, let the Kiwis settle, and then suffered an upwind horror show.

The difference at the top was 1'17“ to the New Zealanders, a net gain of 1' 26” and the gap between the two going down the fourth leg to the turn to the finish topped 1.3kms.

If the Kiwis wanted to come straight back from their only loss in the second race on Sunday they could not have done it more emphatically. They need five more wins to take the cup back to Auckland from the West Coast of the United States for the second time in less than 20 years. Six are scheduled for Thursday, Saturday and Sunday.   

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