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Kiwis close within 1 win of America’s Cup

September 19, 2013

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — The America’s Cup is staying in America for at least one more day, thanks to the wind and tide on San Francisco Bay.

Not long after Emirates Team New Zealand reached match point Wednesday against powerhouse Oracle Team USA, Race 12 was postponed because the wind blowing in through the Golden Gate Bridge exceeded the limit.

The 72-foot catamarans had just crossed the start line with Kiwi skipper Dean Barker holding a big advantage over rival Jimmy Spithill before Race 12 was scrubbed.

Organizers will try again on Thursday to get in two races, if necessary. Two races were postponed on Tuesday because of strong wind blowing against a big ebb tide.

The wind limit of 23 knots was reduced to 19.9 knots for Race 12 because of an ebb tide of 3.1 knots flowing out of San Francisco Bay. The wind peaked at 21.5 knots just before the start.

The wind limit was reduced from 33 knots to 23 knots as one of 37 safety recommendations made after British double Olympic medalist Andrew “Bart” Simpson was killed in the capsize of Artemis Racing’s catamaran on May 9. The wind limit is affected by the day’s tide.

Barker and the rest of the New Zealand crew won Race 11 by 15 seconds earlier Wednesday to move to the brink of taking the oldest trophy in international sports. The Kiwis last hoisted the Auld Mug in 2000.

“Obviously we’re in an extremely strong situation,” New Zealand tactician Ray Davies said. “We are one race away, but that same one race will be the same approach we’ve always had. That’ a pretty exciting part of the game, going out any day now it could be all over. We’ve just got to keep our heads screwed on.”

Team New Zealand leads 8-1. Oracle Team USA, owned by software tycoon Larry Ellison of Oracle Corp., was docked two points going into the match following the biggest cheating scandal in the 162-year history of the America’s Cup.

Spithill believes Oracle still has a chance despite the huge deficit.

“It can be done,” he said. “We’ve got one hell of a battle on our hands here, but stranger things have happened in sport. I’ve witnessed some pretty big comebacks. This team will fight whole way till the end and we won’t give up.”

In 1995, former New Zealand skipper Russell Coutts and the late Peter Blake led Team New Zealand to a 5-0 win over Dennis Conner off San Diego to claim the Cup for the first time for New Zealand.

Five years later, Coutts had given Team New Zealand a 4-0 lead over Italy’s Luna Rossa before handing the wheel to Barker for the final race, which the New Zealanders easily won.

Coutts and a few of his teammates then jumped to Alinghi of Switzerland. That left Barker at the helm of hard-luck Team New Zealand in 2003, when it was swept in five races by Alinghi.

Barker then sailed the Kiwis back into the America’s Cup match in 2007 before they lost again to Alinghi.

With Coutts now the CEO of Oracle Team USA, Barker needs just one more victorious sprint around San Francisco Bay for a bit of personal redemption — and to reclaim the silver trophy for New Zealand.

“We just go out and try and race hard,” Barker said. “If we can get a win, that’ll be great.”

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