Oracle Team USA is one step closer to doing what once seemed impossible as it claimed victory in the only America's Cup Finals race of the day Monday, pushing the score to 8-6 and leaving Emirates Team New Zealand still searching for answers.
The American winning streak is now at five races as Jimmy Spithill's crew fights to keep the Kiwis from claiming the final victory they need to take the trophy back to New Zealand for the first time since 2000. If billionaire Larry Ellison's Oracle team retains the Cup, it would be the largest comeback in the 34 editions of the race.
The key once again was the start, and though Oracle could not get the port side at the start line as it did twice Sunday, it still took off much more quickly at the gun and got around the first mark 5 seconds ahead of New Zealand. From there, it was a repeat of Sunday, with Oracle never giving much hope to New Zealand.
The lead for Oracle increased at each gate, with a final margin of victory at 33 seconds.
With the first race delayed by a half-hour due to low winds at the scheduled 1:15 p.m. start time, there was no time to get a second race in by the established deadline, meaning the earliest Oracle could complete its improbable comeback is Wednesday.
The two teams have now each won eight races, but Oracle still stands two points behind after receiving no points for its first two wins thanks to penalties stemming from misconduct in last summer's America's Cup World Series.
“It's not frustrating, it's actually motivating, to be honest,” Spithill said. “The thing I've found is when it's very difficult, very challenging, that's when it's the most rewarding. You've got to play the cards you're dealt. You can make excuses, say we should have had this, we should have had that. The fact is we are where we are. We're not going to make excuses. We're going to work hard.”
Spithill went on to say the fact that his team might win nine races and still not win the America's Cup did not mean the team was thinking of trying to overturn the decision by the international jury that dished out the penalties.
“We're sailors,” he said. “We're athletes. We're not about the politics and all that sort of stuff. Life's not fair sometimes. But the beauty of sport is that you can win if you go out and win the race. That's what we're about. We can win this Cup.
“They can take as many races as they want, but for us, we know we can win this Cup if twe win the next few races. We can control our own destiny there. The boys are incredibly fired up. I've never seen them like this before.”
The wind is expected to pick up to more than 20 knots today, and should come close to the maximum wind level.
America's Cup Finals
(New Zealand leads the best-of-17 series 8-6; Oracle was penalized two race victories)
Monday: Oracle wins 1-0
Today: Race 17 and 18*1:15 p.m. and 2:15 p.m.
Wednesday: Race 19* 1:15 p.m.