Kiwis move closer to capturing America's Cup
Emirates Team New Zealand (L) competes against Oracle Team USA during the 34th America's Cup on September 15, 2013 in San Francisco.
The pivotal victory in the 10th race of the series came after the event's fiercest on-water duel, with the rivals swapping leads repeatedly in a race that wasn't decided until the Kiwis rounded the final gate.
New Zealand kept control over the rest of the battle on San Francisco Bay, crossing the finish 17 seconds ahead of Oracle.
"If you didn't enjoy today's racing out there, you should probably watch another sport," New Zealand skipper Dean Barker quipped after the hard-fought match on San Francisco Bay.
The Kiwis crossed the start only a heartbeat ahead of the Americans but managed to fend them off in a dash to the first marker, rounding just a second ahead.
Oracle closed the gap and the teams got into a game of leapfrog in what has proven to be a pivotal upwind third leg of the race course. Oracle surrendered the lead for good when it dipped behind New Zealand, slowed and let the Kiwis dart ahead.
"The boys dug deep and got us back into the position where we are fighting for the lead," said Oracle skipper Jimmy Spithill.
The win broke a nascent rally by Oracle, which had triumped in the prior two races in the best-of-17 series.
Oracle, which was penalized two points for infractions before the start of the races, is fighting for an unprecedented victory comeback but still needs eight more wins to retain the trophy.
New Zealand has notched seven victories and needs just two more to wrest the Cup from holders Oracle. They could seize the Cup as early as Tuesday, when the next two races are scheduled.
"It was very important to bounce back after race one," Barker said. "The Oracle guys had a great first race; there were no opportunities for us."
Oracle won the ninth race earlier Sunday. The US crew beat the Kiwis across the start line and jetted to the first marker, rounding it with a lead of a few seconds.
The Americans had extended their lead by the time the catamaran rounded the second marker and into the upwind third leg, which had been the team's undoing in prior losses.
In race nine, Oracle tacked and jibed with precision and built on its lead to reach the finish line 47 seconds ahead of the Kiwis.
Billionaire yachtsman Larry Ellison gave his team a double thumbs-up from a chase boat after they crossed the finish line.
"Larry is really excited about the racing; today he was pumped up," Spithill said. "What you are seeing is the vision he had."
The America's Cup, first contested in 1851, has been held since 2010 by Ellison, the owner of Oracle Team USA, which sails in the colors of the Golden Gate Yacht Club
The technology industry titan, whose personal fortune is estimated at some $40 billion (30.6 billion euros, 26.3 billion pounds) beat the giant Swiss catamaran Alinghi 2-0 in Valencia, Spain, with a 30-metre-long (98-feet) rigid wing trimaran.
Ellison brought the regatta to San Francisco, setting the scene for high-speed AC72 catamarans to race this year.
Only two challengers, from Italy and Sweden, competed with the Kiwis in the challenger series, in part because of the high cost of setting up an America's Cup contender.
If the Kiwis win, they will take command of where the next regatta takes place and what type of boats are used.
"Whoever is successful in this has a duty to get more teams back involved," Barker said. "One thing for sure, it has to get less expensive. There are going to be some cost-saving measures."
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