SAN FRANCISCO Desperate to hold on to the America's Cup it won in 2010, Oracle Team USA held off Emirates Team New Zealand and won Race 12 on Thursday by 31 seconds.
New Zealand needs only one more win to take the oldest international sports trophy home to Auckland, and will try again today after Thursday's second race was postponed because of excessive wind.
"They are getting better," Grant Dalton, manager and crewman on the New Zealand team, said of the American team. "We just have to keep chipping away."
For Oracle skipper Jimmy Spithill, "It's right back to business. The boys are hungry and accepting the challenge."
Oracle had a tremendous start, about three boat lengths ahead of the Kiwis, who were too close to the starting line and had to slow down.
The Americans held a five-second lead at the first mark, extending it to 11 seconds at the leeward mark. The teams engaged in a tacking duel upwind on Leg 3, where Oracle in past races has struggled with boat speed and wobbly crew maneuvers.
This time, Oracle was sharp on its tacks and foiled upwind at speeds of 34 mph, the same speed the boats racing in the challenger series last month were racing downwind. That speed shows just how many improvements the teams have made to go faster on all points of sail, both with the boat and with crew execution.
On the downwind Leg 4, where Oracle has shown a slight speed advantage, the American team widened its lead. It rounded the fourth mark 29 seconds ahead of the Kiwis and charged toward the finish line, crossing 31 seconds before New Zealand.