Kiwis still just one win away from winning America's Cup. Laurence Scott reports.
Facing an elimination race, Team Oracle USA won a must-win Race No. 12 and stayed alive in the 34th America's Cup.
Team USA had the lead from start to finish over Team New Zealand in the first planned race of Thursday.
Kiwi skipper Dean Barker still holds a strong advantage over rival Jimmy Spithill in the overall best of nine race for the Cup.
The day's second race, Race No. 13 overall, was postponed until Friday due to excessive wind speed.
Of the four races scheduled Tuesday and Wednesday, three were postponed due to the wind exceeding the limit and similar weather conditions were forecast Thursday.
Even after Thursday's win, Oracle Team USA, owned by software tycoon Larry Ellison of Oracle Corp., still needs a miracle to keep the oldest trophy in international sports from being spirited away by the crafty Kiwis. Oracle was docked two points going into the match following the biggest cheating scandal in the 162-year history of the America's Cup.
Spithill remains determined despite the incredible odds he and his crew face.
"It can be done,'' Spithill said. "I mean, look, 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.
While Spithill is one race away from losing the Cup, Barker still needs just one more winning sprint around San Francisco Bay for a bit of personal redemption as well as a huge accomplishment for his small island nation of 4.5 million people. Coutts and a few of his mates then jumped ship for bit paychecks from 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.
The Kiwis had to drop out of two races with breakdowns, including when their mast snapped in two and tumbled into the Hauraki Gulf in Race 4. Barker sailed the Kiwis back into the America's Cup match in 2007 before they lost 5-2 to Alinghi. Coutts has been CEO of Oracle Team USA since the 2010 Cup campaign.
The Kiwis last hoisted the Auld Mug in victory in 2000, so they can wait at least one more day for the chance to finish off Oracle. Leading 8-2, the Kiwis need one more win to reclaim the Auld Mug for the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron.
In 1995, 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. Barker and the rest of the Kiwi crew won Race 11 by 15 seconds earlier Wednesday. Barker controlled Spithill at the start and led the whole way, building his lead on the crucial upwind third leg toward the Golden Gate Bridge.