34th America’s Cup: Defender backs up tough talk, wins Race 18

Published on September 24th, 2013

San Francisco, CA (September 24, 2013) – The same simple fact has been repeated since Race 11 of the 34th America’s Cup. If challenger Emirates Team New Zealand wins one more race, they win the Match.  But after six straight losses to defender Oracle Team USA, a team that has immensely improved in both speed and strategy, it has proven to be a monumental task.

After losing again in Race 17 earlier in the day, the Kiwis were comforted by how they kept it close. “Considering how much we gave away at the start, and then to be as close as we were at the finish, it gives us a lot of confidence.”

With the wind varying between 16-20 knots, the Kiwis had the port entry in Race 18, controlling the leeward approach to the line. But the defender kept their distance to windward, and accelerated a fraction better to get the jump off the start line. However, the Kiwis hung in there, and maintained the overlap to hold a 5 second edge at mark one.

But the defender is fast downwind, and despite dogging their first gybe, they narrowed the delta to 100 meters by the end of the run. More importantly, the defender got the split at the leeward gate when the Kiwis opted not to cover their final gybe.  The Kiwis took the offshore gate while the defender turned at the inshore mark.

“Benny (Ainslie) and Tom (Slingsby) were studying with Juan (Vila, team meteorologist) before the race to determine where the tide line was, and they made a great call to go to the right gate,” Spithill said. “They are working really well, just doing a great job.”

With the tide still flooding, both teams dashed on port tack to the right, seeking relief under Alcatraz Island. And then it happened… the defender went into turbo drive.

Up on the challenger’s hip, the defender bore off a couple degrees, popped up on their foils, and went really, really fast. By the time the Kiwis got to the right border, the defender was overlapped and in control. It was over with.

The defender was ahead by 56 seconds at the windward gate, grew the margin to over 1000 meters on the run, and finished ahead on race 18 by 54 seconds.

“With this team, it just doesn’t matter,” said Spithill. “I have been saying this all along that no matter how steep the challenge, like in this race when we got behind, we just put our heads down and out ground the other team. Very impressive, this gives us a lot of confidence going into tomorrow.”

The defender has won 7 straight races, bouncing back from a 1 to 8 deficit to even the series. Tomorrow will be the 19th day of the event, making the 34th America’s Cup the longest in event history. It is now one race, winner take all… and the forecast is calling for big wind. Game on!

Video: Press conference

Click here for complete race stats.
Click here for all race reports.

Eighteen Completed Races – First team to 9 Points Wins
Emirates Team New Zealand: 8
Oracle Team USA: 8*
* Began series with -2 points due to International Jury penalty from AC World Series.

America’s Cup Final schedule
Wednesday, September 25: Race 19 (1:15 pm PT)

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