Oracle attracted criticism for the decision to race the AC72s — expensive, 22m wing-sail catamarans that can travel faster than 80kph. Prohibitive costs kept many competitors away and their temperamental handling sparked concerns over safety.
Cost and safety concerns have prompted talk that if Oracle loses the Cup, the next winner might set the clock back to the days of traditional mono-hull racing.
Oracle’s deficit in the best-of-17 series is more daunting thanks to the two-point penalty imposed on the holders before the finals began, for rules infractions in the America’s Cup World Series.
New Zealand must win nine races to claim the coveted Cup, while Oracle have to win 11 to retain the prize.
“It’s gong to be a battle right the way to the end,” Barker said.