Amazing US rally levels America's Cup
SAN FRANCISCO - Agence France-Presse
Oracle Team USA (L) and Emirates Team New Zealand (R) face off in America's Cup race 17 on September 24, 2013, in San Francisco. AFP PhotoOracle Team USA sailed to an unprecedented seventh consecutive America's Cup victory on Tuesday, extending an epic comeback to pull level with Emirates Team New Zealand at eight triumphs each.
Adding to a regatta rich with dazzling moments, the Americans went from being last across the start to hitting the finish 54 seconds ahead of the Kiwis in the second race after earlier winning by 27 seconds.
The Americans, who were docked two points for pre-regatta violations before their series against the Kiwis even began, fell behind 8-1 last Wednesday and appeared destined for a lopsided defeat.
But that only set the stage for one of the most historic comebacks in sport as US squad launched the longest win streak in the event's 162-year history.
The Cup is set to be decided on Wednesday in a one-race showdown, each team now needing only one more victory to capture the Cup.
Oracle has won 10 races on the water, but is on the brink of overcoming the penalized points for an amazing fightback.
New Zealand has won eight races but has been on Match Point since last Wednesday.
Only three times before in Cup history had a boat won five races in a row, but those were in best-of-nine regattas where none had a chance to stretch the streak as long as Oracle Team USA has this month.
In Tuesday's second race, the Kiwis grabbed the inside lane at the first gate, forcing the Americans into a slow, wide turn and grabbing the advantage.
New Zealand fended off efforts by the Americans to close the gap in the second leg and held onto a lead of slightly more than 100 meters into the critical upwind third leg.
Oracle turned to match New Zealand's line and seemed to rocket ahead of the Kiwis. The Americans turned ahead of New Zealand and snatched a lead that only grew.
The Kiwis drew a pair of penalties at the start of the day's first race, crowding the Americans as they fiercely vied for positions.
"New Zealand was supposed to do everything it could to stay clear and it didn't," the Cup's chief umpire explained. "Two penalties were assessed." The USA was given a head start and rounded the first mark well ahead of the Kiwis.
The Americans blazed along the second leg, with speeds topping 50 mph, and rounded the second gate 29 seconds ahead of the Kiwis.
New Zealand pressed hard on the tail of the American team, which maneuvered to block opportunities to pass.
The Kiwis narrowed the gap through the critical upwind leg, as both catamarans also sailed against the tide, but the Americans held on to cross the finish 27 seconds ahead of New Zealand.