New Zealand has been on match point since Wednesday. Comments 0 Oracle Team USA crosses the finish line to win Race 16 of the America’s Cup in San Francisco Bay on Monday. (Monica M. Davey / EPA / September 22, 2013) Also Associated Press AP September 23, 2013, 6:54 p.m. SAN FRANCISCO Skipper Jimmy Spithill accelerated his 72-foot catamaran off the starting line and steered defending champion Oracle Team USA to its fifth straight win against Emirates Team New Zealand on Monday to stay alive in the America’s Cup. The 34-year-old Spithill and his brain trust of Olympic gold medalists British tactician Ben Ainslie and Australian strategist Tom Slingsby kept the American-backed boat ahead the whole way around the five-leg course on San Francisco Bay for a 33-second victory. Oracle’s remarkable comeback from what seemed like certain defeat has closed the Kiwis’ lead to 8-6 and no doubt has all of New Zealand on edge. Team New Zealand has been on match point since Wednesday, only to watch Spithill and Oracle’s improved 72-foot catamaran sail ahead in a determined attempt to keep the oldest trophy in international sports. Oracle Team USA, owned by software tycoon Larry Ellison , has won eight races. But it was docked two points for illegally modifying boats in warmup regattas called the America’s Cup World Series, so it needs three more wins to keep the Auld Mug. The regatta would be tied if Oracle hadn’t been handed the harshest penalties in the 162-year history of the America’s Cup.
Another win for Team USA
“We still would rather be on match point than having to win three more. There’s no question the Oracle guys have stepped it up a lot, and we need to be able to respond.” Barker had Emirates Team New Zealand in the favored leeward position crossing the starting line before Spithill got Oracle Team USA onto its hydrofoils, with both hulls out of the water, and sped into the lead rounding the first mark. Oracle Team USA has won seven of the last nine races and nine of 11 since Spithill replaced American tactician John Kostecki with Ainslie, who won four straight Olympic gold medals to go with his silver medal from 1996. Ainslie clearly has good communications with Slingsby, who won gold at the London Olympics. Order Reprint About Comments Reader comments on Sacbee.com are the opinions of the writer, not The Sacramento Bee. If you see an objectionable comment, click the “Report Abuse” link below it. We will delete comments containing inappropriate links, obscenities, hate speech, and personal attacks. Flagrant or repeat violators will be banned. See more about comments here. What You Should Know About Comments on Sacbee.com Sacbee.com is happy to provide a forum for reader interaction, discussion, feedback and reaction to our stories. However, we reserve the right to delete inappropriate comments or ban users who can’t play nice. ( See our full terms of service here. ) Here are some rules of the road: Keep your comments civil.
“It’s not frustrating,” Oracle’s cocksure skipper Jimmy Spithill said of the penalty. “It’s actually motivating.” Monday’s second race was postponed due to a late start in the first race as organizers waited for sufficient winds to build. That means a 34th America’s Cup that has already stretched into a record 17 days will go one more. Race 17, and if needed, 18 are slated for Tuesday when winds are expected to be stronger. Monday’s race felt like groundhog day: Another chance for the Kiwis to bring home the Auld Mug; another tactical race and superior start from the Americans; at the end, another Oracle victory, with owner Larry Ellison, the billionaire software mogul, clapping and flashing a thumbs up from his chase boat on what is fast becoming one of the greatest comebacks in sailing — and perhaps all of sport. “We’ve really got a huge wave of momentum now,” said Spithill. Since making crew and boat changes when it was being crushed in the early part of the regatta, Oracle now appears to be the slightly faster boat, but not by much. Where the Americans have dominated is at the start. Despite a less favorable starboard entry and a 10-second delay entering the pre-start box on Monday, Oracle popped up on its hydroplaning foils first when the boats hit the start line. New Zealand had the inside position but Oracle’s acceleration allowed it to roll over the top and seize a 3-second lead at the first mark. With no margin for error, Oracle sailed mistake-free in light but steady breezes, increasing its lead at every mark by a few seconds. Sunday’s races took place in much patchier winds. “Today the conditions were more stable,” said four-time Olympic gold medalist Ben Ainslie, who has helped Oracle go 7-2 since replacing John Kostecki as tactician. “That enabled us to put the race into much more of a holding pattern.” “The Oracle guys had a pretty flawless race that time,” said Barker. “There were no opportunities to get back into it.” New Zealand must now regroup.