SAN FRANCISCO — Emirates Team New Zealand regained the momentum in the America's Cup on Sunday.
Oracle Team USA led wire to wire to take Race 9 by 47 seconds in San Francisco Bay. But in Race 10, New Zealand pulled ahead on the fourth leg and won by 17 seconds to take a 7-1 lead in the best-of-17 series. The teams are off today. New Zealand can clinch by winning both races Tuesday.
"That was a really big point for us," New Zealand skipper Dean Barker said of Race 10. "We definitely needed it."
Oracle put some worry into the Kiwis by winning Sunday's first race. It was the first time it had won consecutive races. Oracle has only one win overall because it was penalized two races for illegal modifications before the final started.
But the Kiwis had two big moments in Race 10.
As the boats sped across the starting line, Oracle's catamaran came off its hydrofoils, allowing Barker to get the inside position. Barker kept his 72-foot catamaran overlapped with Oracle for a four-second lead entering the downwind second leg.
The boats swapped leads sailing upwind toward the Golden Gate Bridge, with Oracle leading by one second at the third gate.
But going downwind, Oracle chose to slow and duck behind the Kiwis rather than gybing on them to cover, losing more than 100 yards.
Barker kept the lead as he rounded the fourth mark and sped to the finish line.
"It was pretty close on that final run into the finish," said Ben Ainslie, who replaced John Kostecki as Oracle's tactician Thursday.
Oracle had been getting stomped by the Kiwis sailing the only upwind leg on the course, but that has changed since it made changes to its wing sail and jib setup to have better balance. The crew work also has improved.
Does Oracle wish it had made the changes earlier?
"We wish we'd made them about a year ago," skipper Jimmy Spithill said. "Then we might have found a few more (changes). This is a development boat. Like any racing sport, whether it be Formula One or MotoGP, you're constantly learning at a race mode. We finally get to the race now, and this is the most we've learned, really. Hindsight's a beautiful thing, but the important thing is how you react and how you go from here on."