Oracle Team USA chalked up their first race victory but challengers Emirates Team New Zealand managed to make further inroads in their quest to dethrone the America’s Cup holders during a thrilling day of racing on the Great Sound today.
Victory in the day’s second race would have done Oracle’s confidence the world of good.
However, the Kiwis’ win in the preceding race moved them to four points, three points closer to the magic number of seven required to win the “Auld Mug” for the first time since 2000.
“We are really happy with how we sailed today,” Peter Burling, the Team New Zealand helmsman, said. “We’re really happy to walk away with a win today.”
The Kiwis led midway through the second race but were passed by Oracle, who played the shifts better on the final beat to the top gate.
“We felt like we sailed really well but just missed a few shifts at the top of the beat, which is a bit disappointing,” Burling added. “But it’s something we will review and come back stronger tomorrow.
“We’re both set up for a battle and we’re excited about the battle ahead.”
And so is Burling’s opposite number, Jimmy Spithill, the Oracle skipper, who was understandably delighted to see his team finally put something on the board with a hard-fought victory in the sixth race of the first-to-seven series.
“It was a well-earned win and was exactly what the boys needed,” Spithill said. “We fought hard and it was good to see the boys keep their composure, too.”
Oracle seemed destined for a fifth straight defeat after losing the lead on the final run to the bottom gate and then overstood the lay line heading back to the weather mark.
However, Spithill and his team-mates kept their wits about them and regained the lead for good after the Kiwis were forced to tack away on a dial-down near the top gate.
“We lost the lead but we kept it together and were able to get that pass back at the top, so a good improvement on our boat speed today and another step tomorrow will be great,” Spithill said.
“We worked very, very hard those five days and then we sailed five times as much as the other guys. A lot of work on the shore and it’s great to see the boat going quicker.
“A little bit more [boat speed] tonight, little improvement in the sailing technique as well, and we will be able to put on a good show tomorrow to pick up a couple of wins.”