SAN FRANCISCO — Defending America's Cup champion Oracle Team USA mostly saw the stern of Emirates Team New Zealand's catamaran Thursday, when the Kiwis won two more races to move closer to taking the trophy Down Under for the second time in 18 years.
Oracle and its new tactician, Olympic star Ben Ainslie, watched the Kiwis pull away between Alcatraz Island and the Golden Gate Bridge, the only upwind leg on the five-leg course on San Francisco Bay. That's where the Kiwis are burying the Americans.
Kiwi skipper Dean Barker turned a close Race 6 into a 47-second victory. He whitewashed the Americans in the seventh race by 1 minute, 6 seconds.
The Kiwis lead 6 to minus-1 and need three more victories to claim the Auld Mug for the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron.
The way the Kiwis are sailing, the clincher could come Sunday. Today is a lay day, with Races 8 and 9 on Saturday.
"We wouldn't be here if we weren't driven," Barker said. "Team New Zealand exists to win the America's Cup. … We've still got to go out and perform well on the water."
Oracle Team USA was docked two points in the biggest cheating scandal in the 162-year history of the America's Cup for illegally modifying its boats in warmup regattas. It needs to win 10 races to keep the silver trophy.
Replacing tactician John Kostecki with British star Ainslie hasn't made up for the fact the Kiwis are better upwind.
"We cannot give up and I can guarantee we won't do that," Oracle skipper Jimmy Spithill said. "… We have to study the data and really see what we can do to change up the boat."