Emirates Team New Zealand moved one step closer to claiming the America's Cup trophy Wednesday, winning the only race of the day before the wind picked up and forced the cancelation of the day's second scheduled race.
After Oracle Team USA made improvements to its boat late last week that got it back in the series, erasing a major disadvantage on the upwind leg, New Zealand used superior tactics and maneuvering to take a big lead at the end of the third leg and run away with a 15-second victory that was never truly in question down the stretch.
The teams stayed in close contention throughout the third leg, and Oracle even briefly took a lead before New Zealand forced the American team to make an extra tack as both approached the fourth marker. The American team did not execute the extra maneuver well, and the Kiwis took a 17-second lead into the downwind sprint toward the final turn.
"It is a bit of a chess match out there and it does happen at a pretty high pace," New Zealand tactician Ray Davies said. "But you do get to sort of be able to judge the closing angles quite accurately. It's not as hard as it probably looks on TV. When you're on the water you tend to get a judge of that a bit easier."
Oracle now has one more day to come up with a plan to avoid turning control of the America's Cup trophy over to New Zealand.
True to form, Dean Barker, the stoic skipper for New Zealand, wouldn't let any excitement show despite the narrowing gap between his team and victory
"We're just going to go out and race hard," he said. "And if we could get a win, it would be great."
Despite having his back forced against the wall by New Zealand, Oracle skipper Jimmy Spithill said he wanted to get the second race in Wednesday.
"It was unfortunate that we couldn't do the afternoon race," he said "But [regatta director] Iain [Murray]'s got the limits that he's stuck with and he can't do anything he can't do. I think both teams would have liked to have raced, but Iain's got to stick by those limits that they've set."
It looked like the second race was going to happen until the last possible second, as both teams were crossing the start line when the announcement was made that the wind had crossed the 20-knot limit. After 10 minutes of waiting and watching, officials made the call to push the Kiwis' first chance to end the series back to today.
Matches are scheduled each day through Sunday, or until a victor is crowned. The series could include as many as eight more races if Oracle can complete its comeback attempt and push the series to the limit, since it received no points for its first two wins.