Oracle gives itself a timeout after latest America's Cup loss 

click to enlarge New Zealand took advantage of a major error by Oracle to win Race 5 on Tuesday. Oracle later decided to use its one postponement card of the series to push back Race 6 until Thursday and regroup. - ERIC RISBERG/AP
  • Eric Risberg/AP
  • New Zealand took advantage of a major error by Oracle to win Race 5 on Tuesday. Oracle later decided to use its one postponement card of the series to push back Race 6 until Thursday and regroup.

Oracle Team USA committed a major tactical error in Race 5 of the America's Cup finals on Tuesday and then called it a day to repair the team's confidence.

The defender of the 34th America's Cup used its "provisional card" to postpone Race 6 of the series soon after it handed Race 5 to Emirates Team New Zealand by making a risky tactical decision midway through the contest.

"We have to be honest with ourselves," Oracle skipper Jimmy Spithill said. "It was obvious, unless we make some changes, there was a real chance we were not going to win the second race of the day."

With the loss, Oracle now trails Team New Zealand 4-0 officially, but really it's 4-to-minus-1 in the best-of-17 series as it was docked two points for committing an illegal-weights violation in the America's Cup World Series last year. The American boat earned one point by winning Race 4 on Sunday.

After jumping out to a 140-meter lead in the first two legs of the race, Oracle attempted to foil tack around the second mark, a sharp turn that would have allowed the 72-foot catamaran to maintain its top speed heading into the third leg.

Instead, the boat's hull hit the water, causing it to nearly stop, and the Kiwis jumped ahead by the time they passed Alcatraz Island on the upwind leg.

"It was a mistake," Oracle strategist-grinder Tom Slingsby said.

Throughout the series, the Kiwis have crushed Oracle upwind, so the American boat likely attempted the risky maneuver to compensate.

"They're impressive upwind," Spithill said. "There's no question about that, there's no hiding from it."

New Zealand crossed the finish line of the 10.27 nautical-mile course 1 minute, 5 seconds before Oracle.

"They gave us a little opportunity," New Zealand tactician Ray Davies said.

The teams were scheduled to race again later in the afternoon, but Oracle used its postponement card to "regroup." Race 6 and Race 7 will be held on Thursday.

Each team is allowed to postpone one race once over the course of the series and by exercising the right on Tuesday, Oracle is gambling. If the team's boat is damaged later in the finals, they'll be forced to race with a handicap.

"Obviously, the risk for us is -- we have a breakdown," Spithill said.

Oracle may also be planning to remove tactician John Kostecki before Race 6. When asked if he could guarantee that Kostecki would be the team's tactician on Thursday, Spithill said: "I can't guarantee anything, I probably can't guarantee that I'll be on there. It's too early to make a decision right now and that's really part of the reason why we played the card."

At this point, Oracle needs to win 10 races to recapture the Cup, while the Kiwis just need five more.

"We can beat these guys," Spithill said. "We've shown we can."

pgackle@sfexaminer.com

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Paul Gackle

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