America’s Cup: Squad New Zealand one point from glory after win over Oracle

Helmsman Peter Burling and his underdog Emirates Team New Zealand won two races on Sunday to reach match point in the Americas Cup

Helmsman Peter Burling and his underdog Emirates Team New Zealand won two races on Sunday to reach match point in the Americas Cup against Jimmy Spithill and two-time defending champ Oracle Team USA. Now the New Zealanders need to avoid the kind of soul-crushing collapse that kept them from winning the oldest trophy in international sports four years ago.

Burling, who at 26 could become a very young helmsman to hoist sailings greatest award, steered his red-and-black, 50 -foot foiling catamaran to victories of 12 seconds in Race 7 and 30 seconds in Race 8 on the Great Sound. His team endeavoured to 6-1 in the first-to-seven match. Team New Zealand has won seven races but began with a negative point because Oracle won the qualifiers. The clincher could come on Monday, when two races are scheduled.

This is a rerun of the epic 2013 combat on San Francisco Bay. Team New Zealand, then led by Dean Barker, reached match point at 8-1 before Oracle rallied to win eight straight races in one of the greatest comebacks in sports to retain the Auld Mug.

Underfunded Team New Zealand almost folded after that debacle, but have bounced back with a remarkably fast barge design that includes a revolutionary cycling grinding system.

Burling appeared to give a friendly wave to the Oracle crew as he sailed alongside and into a controlling position during the course of its prestart of Race 8. From there, he kept his catamaran on foils all the style around the course as he sailed to the edge of what would be an enormous upset of powerhouse Oracle Team USA, who are owned by one of the worlds richest men, software tycoon Larry Ellison.

Burling has won Olympic gold and silver medals, along with Team New Zealand crewman Blair Tuke. Now hes closing in on adding his name to a list of Americas Cup winners that includes Dennis Conner, fellow New Zealander Russell Coutts and Ted Turner.

While Burling steers the boat, the crew is skippered by Australian Glenn Ashby, 39, a multihull wiz who controls the wingsail. Spithill became the youngest helmsman to win the Americas Cup in 2010 when Oracle Team USA beat Alinghi of Switzerland.

Team New Zealand first won the Americas Cup in 1995 when Coutts now the Ceo of Oracle Team USA skippered a five-race sweep of Conner off San Diego. After defending in 2000, Coutts jumped ship to Alinghi of Switzerland and resulted a five-race sweep of Team New Zealand. The Kiwis lost again to Alinghi in 2007.

In Race 7, Spithill turned up only a little bit as the catamarans approached the starting line, perhaps fearful of being early across the line as he was in Races 1 and 5, both losses. He said those mistakes were due to a software glitch on the boat. Thats all Burling needed to set his cat ahead for good, winning by 12 seconds. Prophecy did cut Team New Zealands 35 -second lead at the fifth gate mark to 12 seconds at the sixth gate mark.

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