Spithill skippers Oracle to 1st win in America's Cup

Marie Harrington
June 25, 2017

Oracle Team USA have won their first race of the America's Cup in Bermuda, beating Emirates Team New Zealand by 11 seconds in race six. Spithill was 30 when he won it in 2010.

But defending champions the United States of America replied with their first win of the best-of-13 series in race six in Bermuda. It started with a negative point because Oracle Team USA, owned by billionaire Larry Ellison, won the qualifiers.

Races 7 and 8 are scheduled for Sunday.

"It was great to see those boys actually sailing a little bit better ... these guys just sailed well and we're just excited about the battle ahead", New Zealand helmsman Peter Burling said following the rare defeat.

The charismatic Spithill has more expertise in match racing, the sailing equivalent of a boxing contest, and the benefit of almost two decades of America's Cup experience.

That could all change if the US holders are able to turn around a 3-0 Kiwi lead in the first-to-seven competition on Bermuda's Great Sound when racing resumes this weekend.

The capsize brought back memories from San Francisco in 2013, when Andrew "Bart" Simpson was killed in a similar incident.

At one stage comeback specialist Spithill managed to get a lead over Burling, but he was out-duelled and infringed the Kiwi "cat", incurring another penalty and allowing them to fly into the line on their space-age catamaran in front of a packed grandstand in Bermuda's purpose-built America's Cup Village. "They go fast, and when they go wrong, situations can get bad", Murray said.

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But although the New Zealanders got away, the US champions recovered well and fought their way back into the race, finding the speed which had evaded them in previous encounters. "That's good. I love seeing that".

"If anything, when he was yelling at us we weren't even listening at that point", Slater said, adding that the teams have access to the same information within seconds, so that they can see why a decision has been made.

"Now we've got confidence", the 37-year-old Spithill said.

While an Auckland cup would be more expensive for some sponsors and create challenges for televising the event in some countries, sponsors such as Land Rover which supports Britain's BAR team do not see it as a deal breaker.

Slater was on the receiving end of some vocal protests by Artemis Racing's Team Manager Iain Percy during the Swedish team's semi-final races after imposing penalties on them, but said that was to be expected given the intensity of racing.

An illustration of the NZL Sailing Team's dominance on the final day was the fact they were 3 minutes and 57 seconds ahead of the second-placed BAR in the final race.

But Oracle closed the distance and the boats were even as they went through the gate mark five.

Oracle Team USA, right, races Emirates Team New Zealand during the fifth race of America's Cup sailing competition Saturday, June 24, 2017, in Hamilton, Bermuda.

Other reports by TheSundaySentinel

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