America's Cup: Critical win eludes Team NZ, next race tomorrow

Oracle Team USA wins race 12 by a comfortable margin; next race postponed until tomorrow (Saturday, NZ time).

A win eluded Emirates Team New Zealand in race 12 of the America’s Cup, won by Oracle Team USA with a comfortable 31-second margin on San Francisco Bay.

Oracle gained the advantage at the start and never lost it. The win puts the series at 8-2 with Team NZ needing only one win to clinch the Cup.

The second scheduled race was called off because of excessive wind and racing will resume tomorrow (Saturday NZ time).

In race 12, Oracle led into the first marker after Team NZ was forced to tack near the line.

Oracle soon had a 95-100m or two-boat lengths’ margin in an evenly matched run to the bottom marker at the end of the first main leg.

Oracle led by 11s around the mark but Team NZ started closing the gap in the return stretch back to 45m as the yachts crossed each other in the tacking duel going upwind.

Oracle pulled ahead again by taking a more direct route but the Team NZ tacking tactic paid off as the gap again closed again to within a couple of boat lengths.

But Oracle maintained its dominance through to the top turn with a margin of 130-140m and reaching speeds of more than 30 knots.

Team NZ trailed by 9.5s around the marker and sought more wind by going inshore on the return leg.

Oracle soon stretched its lead to 500m and never looked like being caught, extending its margin to 28s around the final marker.

EARLIER

Conditions on San Francisco Bay are perfect for the "match point" race 12 this morning that could bring the America's Cup back to New Zealand.

Emirates Team New Zealand has only to win one of the two races scheduled for today to claim victory in the series over Oracle Team USA.

There will be standing room only at Auckland waterfront's Shed 10 where the race will shown to the public. Television audiences should exceed the 900,000 who watched on Sunday morning, when Team NZ's Aotearoa nearly flipped.

In San Francisco, government ministers are refusing to talk up the implications of a Cup win until the winning race is over.

Commentators say Team NZ won't have the same starting advantage it held in the race 12 that was aborted yesterday by officials because of excessive wind.

Today, winds are around 15-18 knots, the same as prevailed for race 11 yesterday when Team NZ won by 15s. The wind limit is 25 knots but this is reduced for the second race because of stronger currents later in the day.

Some yachting experts say the relatively low wind limits for this type of racing -- imposed for safety reasons -- have hampered the series and robbed it of interest to a wider audience of sailing fans in America.

They know that a normal wind limit is around 25 knots and is not adjusted for tidal flow, Sail-World.com's commentary says.

"A close race between two very high speed catamarans, sailed by extremely competent crews, who are developing their boats and sailing techniques as the series progresses, to the point where there is almost no certainty who will win on a given day and if one team enjoyed an advantage one day, it can easily vanish the next. This is not your father's America's Cup, where the outcome of the regatta was known five minutes after the first cross," Sail-World.com says.

"This is something the likes of which has never been seen in sailing before, and which may never be seen again. Hopefully that will not be the case, and the sailing vision which Larry Ellison planned and underwrote is just magnificent sport."

Looking to the future, Sail-World.com's Richard Gladwell says the next Cup series must dramatically cut the cost of entry.

"The only way to do this is to tackle the issue head on, and introduce salary caps, and budget caps. They exist in other sports and the penalties for breach are so eye-watering you wouldn't contemplate a work-around for fear of being caught.

"Fiddling with the boat size won't work. Even if the regatta were held in a tiny P-class dinghy, you are dealing with a breed that could assemble a 30 strong design team to develop the ultimate 7fter, and add another 30 into the support team. Simply if the objective is to reduce cost, then the 65% of the budget that is personnel must be addressed head-on."

NBR ONLINE has spoken to a government minister, who says the cost of entry must come down to around $60-70 million, about half of what it costs now to mount a challenge.

New Zealand stands to add up to 1% of GDP -- or $2.18 billion -- over the years leading up to the next challenge series in 2017, some estimates say. The government also understands the Louis Vuitton Cup series is committed if New Zealand wins, despite this year's debacle.