Update 2:40 p.m.: Emirates Team New Zealand won the start of today’s second race (finals race 7) and lengthened its lead at every mark, finishing more than 1 minute ahead of Oracle Team USA. New Zealand now leads the finals 6 races to 1. That’s a serious deficit for USA, but it’s worse than it looks. The team must still work off a penalty imposed for illegally altering boats in earlier regattas. It must still win another race before it can begin to score points in the finals. The first team to win nine races wins the finals, so Oracle needs to take 10 races to keep the Cup. The Kiwis need three wins to seize the prize.
Update 1:50 p.m.: Emirates Team New Zealand wins today’s first race for its fifth victory in the finals. The Kiwis are more than halfway to the nine races they need in the best-of-17 series to win the Cup
Update 1:40 p.m.: Finishing the course’s upwind leg and turning at Mark 3, New Zealand is ahead by 44 seconds. That reversed a 12-second deficit at Mark 2. A clear pattern in most races of the finals to this point: New Zealand is performing much, much better upwind.
Original post: It’s another race day for the America’s Cup and quite possibly a do-or-die day for Cup defender Oracle Team USA. Due to a two-race penalty imposed before the Cup finals began last Saturday, Oracle faces in effect a five-race deficit going into today’s racing. Emirates Team New Zealand has won four of the five contests sailed since last Saturday; Oracle has won one and needs to take another just to get to zero in the standings.
The drama going into today’s event — two races, scheduled at 1:15 p.m. and 2:15 p.m. PDT — surrounds Oracle’s decision to change tacticians after a horrible performance on Tuesday. Here’s the rundown from the official America’s Cup site:
The America’s Cup community in San Francisco, and large parts of England, is abuzz with the news that ORACLE TEAM USA has changed tacticians; four-time Olympic gold medalist Ben Ainslie is in and past America’s Cup champion John Kostecki is out.
“We’ve decided to make a change in the back and bring Ben Ainslie onboard,” skipper Jimmy Spithill said. “While making crew changes has always been an option, we understand there’s a risk that comes with it. JK is a great teammate and a tremendous asset to our program, and he is supportive of the decision.”
“I think they had to do something,” said ACEA CEO Stephen Barclay. “From a personal point of view it’s a strong move and we’ll see if it pays dividends. In golf Saturday is often referred to as moving day and I think after today we’ll have a very good insight as to what’s going to happen.”
The Ellison factor: SFGate’s Tom FitzGerald reports that New Zealanders visiting the city for the finals are having a great time here. But there’s something they don’t quite get about the locals:
Chatting with New Zealand fans at their team headquarters after the race, many were surprised at the lack of national rooting interest in the U.S.
David Melickan of Auckland flew in to catch a few races with his mates.
“I was having breakfast this morning and a woman leaned over and said, ‘I hope you guys win,’ ” said Melickan, a self-described “ol’ yachtie” from way back. “I’m thinking, ‘What the heck is happening here? Why aren’t they rooting for the home team?’ I think it’s Larry.”
I think you’re right, Dave. Whichever way you cut your jib, Larry Ellison’s substantial hubris hangs over the America’s Cup proceedings like a shroud. Which is too bad. The man invested hundreds of millions of dollars to improve the sport of sailing, only to suffer embarrassment and disdain on his home turf.
How do they do that? A few weeks ago, we wondered aloud in the newsroom how New Zealand’s 72-foot catamaran had topped 50 mph when the wind on the bay at the time was about 18 mph. What are the physics involved? Here’s the answer, by way of reporter Mike Osborne for KQED Science: How Do These Boats Sail Faster Than the Wind?