SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Dean Barker and Emirates Team New Zealand regained the momentum in the America’s Cup when they pulled ahead of defending champion Oracle Team USA on the fourth leg to win Race 10 by 17 seconds Sunday on San Francisco Bay.
Team New Zealand, which almost capsized during a 52-second loss Saturday, leads 7-1 and needs two more wins to claim the Auld Mug for the second time in 18 years.
Monday’s a lay day and the Kiwis could clinch on Tuesday, when the next two races are scheduled.
Oracle Team USA, owned by software tycoon Larry Ellison, needs to win eight more races to keep the oldest trophy in international sports. It entered the series with a two-point penalty for the biggest cheating scandal in the Cup’s 162-year history.
Even if it continues to split races, Team New Zealand can essentially run out the clock against the American powerhouse.
Oracle led wire-to-wire to win Race 9 by 47 seconds earlier Sunday to seemingly regain the momentum. It was the first time this regatta that Oracle won consecutive races.
Barker turned momentum back the Kiwis’ way at the first mark in Race 10. Oracle skipper Jimmy Spithill had the acceleration but Barker just barely had the inside position heading into the mark and was able to keep his 72-foot catamaran overlapped. Team New Zealand led by 4 seconds turning onto the downwind second leg.
The Kiwis extended the lead to 11 seconds sailing downwind, but the American boat continued to show improvement on the windward third leg and took a 1-second lead through the third gate.
The Kiwis went from almost even with Oracle to about 200 yards ahead after the American boat chose to slow and dip behind on the downwind fourth leg rather than gybe onto Team New Zealand.
Barker kept the lead as he rounded the fourth mark and sped to the finish line just off Pier 27-29.
Oracle won Race 9 decisively even after hitting something with its port rudder before the race. The shore crew repaired the top rudder bearing before the start and was making more repairs before Race 10.
Oracle had been getting stomped by the Kiwis sailing the only upwind leg on the course, but that changed since it made changes to its wing sail and jib setup to have the boat better balanced. The crew work improved along with the changes to the catamaran.
At one point on the windward leg in Race 9, as the boats zigzagged toward the Golden Gate Bridge, Oracle tactician Be Ainslie was heard to say, “Lovely tack.”