Racing in light winds on Sunday (NZ time), the Kiwis won both of the day’s races, and were largely untested throughout. That bodes well for their chances of reclaiming the Auld Mug, which they last held in 2003.
Oracle skipper Jimmy Spithill was aggressive to begin the second race, after being outfoxed in the first, but he couldn’t force Peter Burling into an error, and it was Team NZ who led at the first mark.
Once they were out in front, Team NZ could just focus on themselves and race their own race. It looked like they would have it easy for the second time in as many races, but on the upwind fifth leg, Oracle took advantage of a wind shift to close right up on them.
Team NZ just held on, however, and led at the mark, then took advantage of a poor Oracle gybe to ease away and claim the win, by 1m 28s.
“[The wind] was just so shifty and so puffy as we saw out there. [That meant] huge movements on both the daggerboards and the wing and the jib – you never actually ever stopped trimming something for the whole day, so those guys got an absolutely whipping today.
“We made a few mistakes around the track, obviously, and so did [Oracle]. It was one of those days where it was hard to string every single puff and every single shift together – you sort of had to let a couple go to make sure you played the longer game.”
“This [wind] direction’s pretty notorious for being very gusty, there’s some really big lulls out there, and that was obviously the case today. But it’s the same for both boats, so you’ve just go to deal with it the best you can.”
In the first race of the day, Spithill and Oracle got too close to the start line too early, and strayed over it before the clock hit zero, which earned them a penalty. Oracle had been expected to be the stronger boat in that phase of the race, so it came as quite the boost for Team NZ’s hopes.
Being so far out in front, Team NZ were able to sail their own race, and they didn’t come under any pressure. They had a slight speed advantage upwind, of around 20 knots to 18.
At the sixth gate, Team NZ made a mistake themselves, stalling as they gybed and allowing Oracle to catch up, but it was too little too late, as they won by 30s at the line.
Because Oracle finished top of the round-robin qualifiers in the challenger series, Team NZ began the America’s Cup match on -1, while Oracle were on 0, effectively leaving the Kiwis needing to win eight races to the defender’s seven to claim the spoils.
5.12am: Race three
5.57am: Race four
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