Oracle Team USA scored its first win of the America's Cup Finals on Sunday, splitting two races with Emirates Team New Zealand.
The score for the series now officially stands at 3-0 in favor of the Kiwis, with Oracle not receiving credit for this win -- or its next one -- due to a penalty handed down for violating the Class Rule during last year's America's Cup World Series. That means New Zealand essentially has a four-point lead.
Oracle won the start in each of the day's races, but gave up the lead on the third leg of the first race. The push upwind had been Oracle's Achilles heel Saturday as well, and it looked like the Kiwis would run away with the series the same way they did in the Louis Vuitton Cup.
Thanks to a strong start and a penalty against New Zealand, the defending champions held a strong lead for the first half of the second race. Disaster nearly struck, however, when it dropped too quickly off its foils while approaching the second gate. The boat smashed into the water, its momentum nearly disappearing, and New Zealand was quickly on Oracle's heels.
This time, however, the downwind leg was no problem for Oracle, as it pushed its lead to 16 seconds through the third gate, and held off a late charge by New Zealand for an 8-second victory.
"We were pretty fired up," Oracle skipper Jimmy Spithill said of the team's first win. "But disappointed about the first one. We had a great race with Team New Zealand and it just sort of slipped between our fingers. It was a real sign of strength from the guys to bounce back in a situation like that, having lost three in a row, and to bounce back and win that one, especially going into the break tomorrow. It's a real confidence booster for the boys."
The loss is only the second of the summer for New Zealand, its only other coming when a battery pack failed during the second race of the Louis Vuitton Cup Finals and it was forced to withdraw.
"There are certainly things we need to do better," New Zealand skipper Dean Barker said. "We've got to make sure we've got ourselves in a good position at mark one, and from there you have a lot more control over your destiny. It's good for the team. You don't like losing races, but at the same time there's a lot of good things that can come out of it which I'm sure will make us better on Tuesday."
With 13 races to go, New Zealand needs six more wins to bring the America's Cup trophy home for the first time since 2000. Oracle needs 10 more wins to retain its title. The next pair of races are scheduled for Tuesday, beginning at 1:10 p.m.