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America's Cup 34 - Dark days for US of A as ETNZ reaches match point

by David Schmidt, Sail-World USA Editor on 19 Sep 2013
18/09/2013 - San Francisco (USA,CA) - 34th America’s Cup - ORACLE Team USA vs Emirates Team New Zealand, Race Day 8 ACEA - Photo Gilles Martin-Raget
It’s hard to be happy these days if you’re a fan of Oracle Team USA. The squad is now down eight races to one to Emirates Team New Zealand (ETNZ) in a best-of-nine contest that should have ended today. Ultimately, an unexpected puff that was two tenths of a knot over the wind limit hit the RC’s anemometer literally seconds before the starting gun was due to fire, saving Oracle from a miserable start and a likely thumping from their Kiwi rivals.

True, Oracle could theoretically bounce back, but having to win eight straight races while facing an equally matched competitor who is sitting on match point, would be a sporting miracle and an unprecedented America’s Cup comeback.

The strong ebb tide that’s been raking San Francisco Bay all week is set to ease tomorrow, and the breeze, too, is expected to settle down a bit. For Oracle, who has admitted to liking the stronger stuff, the steep hill keeps getting harder.

'The boat seems to go well in a breeze, that’s obvious,' said Spithill at today’s post-racing press conference. 'But I think we can still win races in the light stuff. We’re looking hard every night at what we can do.'

Oracle’s shore crew has been working around the clock on their boat for the past several weeks, and it shows, given the team’s huge gains in their upwind performance as well as their now-smoother and faster foil-to-foil maneuvers. But unfortunately these sweeping team evolutions and improvements likely came too late in the game.

Still, the team is far from writing off their defense of the 34th America’s Cup. Spithill again: 'It’s not over; it’s a long way from over.'

Unfortunately for Spithill, the end could now come at any race. For fans, this adds a serious gravity and emotion to tomorrow’s racing and will no doubt cause some anxiety in San Francisco as Race 12 approaches. For anyone even semi-close to the race venue, GO and see this for yourself. After all, it could (sadly) prove to be a long while before the Auld Mug returns to U.S. shores. For everyone else (even Kiwi fans!) keep your fingers crossed for a few back-to-back Oracle wins, as extra racing provides a rare opportunity to see such high-performance sailing on television.

Two races are scheduled for tomorrow, with another two races (if necessary) slated for both Saturday and Sunday.

May the four winds blow you safely home,

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