Update Wednesday: Live coverage of today’s final race here.
After winning two today, Oracle Team USA has not only tied up the series but is making a bid to complete one of the greatest comebacks in sporting history, winning seven straight while facing elimination each and every time. AP is reporting the USA crew is the first to ever win that many America’s Cup races in a row. Not included in the current score: the two Team USA victories discounted in the win total because of a penalty for cheating during a previous series.
Here’s the video of today’s races:
AP’s write-up of today’s action:
Oracle, which trailed 8-1 last Wednesday, came from behind and passed the Kiwis after they tacked too early and slowed while zigzagging toward the Golden Gate Bridge. The American-backed boat — with only one American on its 11-man crew — sped past and built its lead to more than 1,000 yards on the windward fourth leg going past Alcatraz Island.
The final margin was 54 seconds. Spithill, a 34-year-old Australian who has been almost defiant about his team’s ability to rebound from the penalties, did a flyby of Pier 27-29, with his crew lining the port hull to wave and pump their fists toward the crowd.
Earlier, Oracle forced Emirates Team New Zealand into two penalties during the wild start of Race 17 and won by 27 seconds.
Team New Zealand skipper Dean Barker dominated Spithill at the start and beat him to the first mark with his 72-foot catamaran, allowing him to control the race.
The Kiwis led by 7 seconds rounding the second gate mark before committing the blunder that cost them the lead and, perhaps, the oldest trophy in international sports.
In Race 17, Spithill appeared in trouble just before the start but hooked behind Barker into a favored leeward position as the boats jockeyed just inside the Golden Gate Bridge. The 72-foot catamarans touched, and Oracle tactician Ben Ainslie yelled at the Kiwis to tack away. They collided again, this time harder, with Ainslie gesturing angrily.
Team New Zealand sat dead in the water to clear the penalties as Oracle pulled away. Oracle stayed ahead the whole way around the five-leg course.
The New Zealand Herald says there may be more at stake than just an inglorious place in sporting history for the Kiwis:
Losing after leading 8-1 in the first-to-nine series would be bad enough. But the bigger picture is even worse. Lose, and the syndicate may fall apart. Team CEO and fundraising power source, Grant Dalton, has already hinted that he will not do another America’s Cup challenge if this one fails, though such decisions are always open to review. If he goes, there are doubts that multimillionaire benefactor Matteo de Nora will continue either. Full story
OK, so who you rooting for now? Oracle Team USA has mounted an incredible comeback, and it’s ostensibly the home team, owned by our own friendly local billionaire, Larry Ellison. On the other hand, Oracle Team USA is owned by our own friendly local billionaire, Larry Ellison …
Speaking of Ellison, from AP today:
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Oracle CEO Larry Ellison is so immersed in his boating team’s stirring comeback in the America’s Cup that he backed out of giving the marquee speech at his software company’s biggest customer conference of the year.
Ellison skipped his scheduled appearance Tuesday afternoon so he could watch Oracle Team USA try to win its seventh straight race against Emirates Team New Zealand on the San Francisco Bay. The Oracle Corp. conference attended by about 60,000 people is being held at a convention center located about 2 miles from where the America Cup’s races finish.
Oracle Chairman Jeff Henley told the crowd that Ellison wouldn’t be appearing as planned so he could remain on a boat in the Bay to watch the 18th race of the competition.
People are flooding out of #oow13 keynote after hearing that CEO Larry Ellison is at the America’s Cup, and not here.
— Jonathan Bloom (@BloomTV) September 24, 2013
Update: Oracle Team USA wins again, by about 27 seconds. That’s their sixth victory in a row, and the score is now, incredibly, 8-7. Race 18 is scheduled for 2:15 p.m.
The New Zealand Herald on the first race:
A disastrous start, earning two penalties, cost Emirates Team New Zealand yet another race in the America’s Cup this morning.
As the two giant AC72s tangled in the start box in Race 17, colliding softly, ETNZ skipper Dean Barker had a good position but was found to have fouled Oracle Team USA when it was to leeward – and then copped another penalty for not clearing the way quick enough.
That was the race, right there. The winds had been over 24 knots but dropped down to 18 knots at race time.
Kiwi fans are taking it hard …
— Voice Brand Agency (@Brandlads) September 24, 2013
The Sydney Morning Herald is rubbing it in with this headline: “Eight wins is not enough for Team NZ to avoid punchline in list of sport’s greatest chokes.”
Dean Barker, who frankly looks like he’d rather be on dry land at this point, just said he won’t play his provisional card to cancel the second race today and regroup.
C’mon! Still not excited about the America’s Cup?
It’s getting pretty interesting, even for us non-sailing fans, as Team New Zealand is well on its way to pulling the kind of championship collapse not seen since the 2004 Yankees lost four straight to the Red Sox to give away the pennant.
From the New Zealand Herald today:
With murmurings of Team NZ now being sure-fire contenders for the greatest choke of all time if they go on to lose from here, the pressure building on the Kiwi team is immense.
For almost a week now, New Zealand has been one win away from snatching the Cup away from the U.S. But the Oracle crew has managed to win five straight, staving off elimination each and every time. The score is now 8-6, but keep in mind that Team USA has won another couple of races that aren’t reflected in that tally, because the team started off a pair down due to a penalty for cheating during the 2012 America’s Cup World Series.
The Chronicle’s Tom FitzGerald says one reason for the turnaround is that Team USA skipper Jimmy Spithill has gotten the best of the Kiwis’ Dean Barker at the starting line.
Their biggest problem seems to be the start, where Jimmy Spithill appears to have Dean Barker’s number. By an unofficial count, the Oracle Team USA skipper has won the start 10 times in 16 races.
More analysis on the extreme swing in the competition’s momentum from Julia Prodis Sulek at the Mercury News:
The America’s Cup is also a design competition, where the fastest boat almost always wins. At the beginning of the America’s Cup finals, that boat belonged to New Zealand. But over the past week and a half, Oracle Team USA’s boat has proven to be faster, both upwind and downwind. And that’s another mental game Spithill plays, telling reporters every day how his shore team is working into the wee hours to improve the boat. When asked when Oracle will be happy with its boat and stop making changes, Spithill doesn’t hesitate: “Never.”
Since the regatta began, the American team has made far more changes — 15 that have been certified by the measuring committee — than New Zealand, which has made at least eight. Although the precise changes on the boats haven’t been made public, Oracle at one point lopped off its bow sprit — a pole at the front of the boat that supports a light wind sail — to reduce drag and increase the speed on heavy wind days, then put it back on in light winds. On the upwind leg, which caused Oracle its worst problems in the past, the team started to either overtake the Kiwis or extend its lead. Full article
Today’s first race on San Francisco Bay is scheduled for 1:15 p.m., and if Team USA notches another victory, another race will follow.
Follow the action live below …