Oracle skipper Spithill tough on, off water in America's Cup


Two poor manoeuvres reduced Emirates Team New Zealand's advantage, giving Jimmy Spithill a slight hope of catching the Kiwis in the closing stages.

Heading into the start of the first race Emirates Team New Zealand knew that Oracle had altered their boat to make it quicker.

In relatively light winds, Burling continued to sail smoothly, extending the Kiwis' advantage to a healthy margin of one minute and 52 seconds over their rivals by the fifth gate.

The break has come at an opportune time for Oracle Team USA, who have struggled to match the pace of the Kiwi boat, and find themselves down 3-0 on the scoreboard (Team NZ started the Cup match at -1).

Four years ago, New Zealand were eventually overhauled by an Oracle team that featured Britain's Ben Ainslie as tactician in what is regarded as one of sport's great comebacks.

Spithill's Oracle team now face an uphill battle to win the 35th edition of the competition, where the trophy is earned by the first team to reach seven points.

Peter Burling and crew are expected to be back out on the water tomorrow fine tuning their boat handling and systems ahead of the resumption of racing on Sunday.

Well-funded Oracle Team USA - Ellison is worth an estimated $55 billion - has five days to come up with some answers to try to counter the spot-on design innovations by the scrappy, underfunded Kiwis, who almost folded after their epic collapse in the 2013 America's Cup on San Francisco Bay.

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"I think what happened is that we lost a rudder", revealed Spithill, reflecting on the manoeuvre that all but ended their challenge. "It's not over. We've got five days now, very important days".

Oracle does have history on its side.

One of the more intriguing matchups, besides how the teams' 50-foot, foiling catamarans compare and how well the crews sail them, is how Team New Zealand helmsman Peter Burling, a 26-year-old America's Cup rookie, holds up against Spithill.

Coutts has been the CEO of Oracle Team USA since it beat Alinghi in 2010.

Spithill, an Australian, is trying to win his third straight America's Cup before he turns 38.

"We will go away and look at what we need to improve because we all know for a fact that Jimmy (Spithill) won't give up and so we have to keep progressing". "It was no coincidence that we saw the Kiwi spy boat out there - I just can't believe you guys fell for it again". We tidied up a lot of those little errors we made yesterday around the course and I think that really showed.

"Our team's really hungry to keep learning, keep moving forward, keep improving".

Even to the untrained eye, it seemed our big cat was much the faster boat in the light, albeit tricky, winds, but Spithill claimed it was much too soon to draw conclusions on boat speed. Teams are permitted to make unlimited changes of up to 10 per cent of the daggerboards (which usually pertains to the tip), while they have four chances to make alterations of up to 30 per cent.