Mon, Jun 19, 2017 - Page 11 News List

Kiwis beat Oracle in first two America’s Cup races

NO SAFE LEAD:The Kiwis are eager to take the Auld Mug back to New Zealand after a 14-year-hiatus, but with only a one-point lead on Saturday, the cup is yet to be secured

AP, HAMILTON, Bermuda

Emirates Team New Zealand helmsman Peter Burling, left, and teammate skipper Glenn Ashby wave to fans on Saturday after winning the second race against Oracle Team USA during the America’s Cup, in the Great Sound, Bermuda.

Photo: AP

In light, shifty winds on the turquoise waters of the Great Sound in Bermuda, Peter Burling and Emirates Team New Zealand made fewer mistakes than Jimmy Spithill and Oracle Team USA and won the first two races of the 35th America’s Cup.

It was not the cleanest start to sailing’s biggest regatta, leaving more questions than answers as both teams headed back to their bases to pore over data and figure out where they need to sharpen up.

Although they won twice, by 30 seconds and 1 minute, 28 seconds, the Kiwis lead just 1-0.

Oracle earned a bonus point for winning the qualifiers, but it was actually a negative point for the Kiwis, so the first-race win merely erased that. That means they need to win eight races total to spirit the Auld Mug back to the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron in Auckland, where it resided from 1995 until 2003.

Oracle needs to win seven to keep the silver trophy in the hands of US software billionaire Larry Ellison.

“We’re under no illusions,” said Burling, 26. “We’ve got a lot of hard work to do to keep pushing forward. All the people in the shed back at the base are already going over the boat and trying to get little bits of speed to start throwing at these guys.”

Other than the Kiwis remaining fast in light conditions, there is not much of a conclusion to draw yet.

After all, the 2013 America’s Cup proved that no lead is safe.

This is a rematch of that epic regatta, when Team New Zealand, then skippered by Dean Barker, reached match point at 8-1 before Oracle Team USA won eight straight races on San Francisco Bay to retain the oldest trophy in international sports.

Still, this is not the start the powerhouse Oracle squad expected.

“It was obviously a tough day,” Spithill said. “Clearly we weren’t sailing at our best, but we had our opportunities. We had our chances, but these guys made fewer mistakes. The good news is, we’re only one back.”

Burling, who has won Olympic gold and silver medals with grinder Blair Tuke, again appeared unflappable. He is an America’s Cup rookie.

Spithill, an Australian, is trying to win his third-straight America’s Cup before he turns 38.

For a few dramatic minutes, it looked like Spithill was going to salvage a split of Saturday’s races. The US-backed crew benefited from a wind shift sailing upwind on leg five in the second race and made up a huge deficit, pulling right behind the Kiwis sailing through the gate mark, but its 50-foot catamaran came off its foils during a bad gybe and buried its bows in the water, allowing the Kiwis to speed back ahead and open a lead of more than 274m.

Spithill thinks that the splashdown was caused by a problem with one of the rudders.

“I think we saw just how a couple of times these guys built a healthy lead and in the blink of an eye it’s back on again,” Spithill said. “We were far from our best today. We’re obviously going to put some hours in now, really have a good look back through all the video, all the data, sharpen up and come out swinging tomorrow.”

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