Oracle Team USA beat Emirates Team New Zealand in yesterday’s only completed America’s Cup race, avoiding elimination in the 162-year-old regatta for a second straight day with help from light wind on San Francisco Bay.
The win leaves the defending champions behind 8-3 in the best-of-17 series, needing to win the next six races to take the regatta that continues today. New Zealand, which needs a single victory to capture the trophy, led an earlier race by almost a mile before officials abandoned it for exceeding a 40-minute time limit.
“We felt very lucky,” said Ben Ainslie, Oracle’s tactician. “We also felt for the Kiwi guys, because I think we’ve all been in that situation where you’ve got a hand on the trophy and you have to come back and do it all again.”
Racing in wind of about 12 knots (14 miles per hour, 22 kilometers per hour), the Kiwis won the start and rounded the first turn with a three-second edge, before Oracle took advantage of a favorable wind shift to pull ahead.
As the 72-foot hydrofoil catamarans approached the downwind mark, Oracle forced New Zealand into two rapid maneuvers, then extended the lead while the Kiwis were slowed down by the turns.
“It’s just full-throttle for us,” Oracle helmsman Jimmy Spithill said. “We don’t have an option. We’re not playing it conservative out there. We’re doing everything we can. And the boys are almost, it seems crazy, but they’re almost excited to be in this position. Things are starting to go our way and we’re trying to ride the wave of momentum.”
That win came after New Zealand dominated an earlier race, pulling ahead by more than two minutes before officials called off the race with the Kiwis preparing to turn toward the finish.
The abandonment kept alive the hopes of the U.S. team backed by Oracle Corp. chief executive Larry Ellison, the world’s eighth-richest person according to the Bloomberg Billionaires index, while exasperating New Zealand skipper Dean Barker.
“It’s a very frustrating day to be honest,” he said after the race. “Very frustrating.”
The abandoned race was a change from the previous two days, each of which saw a race postponed for wind that exceeded a 20-knot safety limit.