19 Jun 2017

Could Team NZ still be savaged by Oracle TeamUSA?

3:21 pm on 19 June 2017

Analysis - Could this be the 'San Francisco moment' when an ascendant Team New Zealand is savaged by a revitalised Oracle TeamUSA?

Emirates Team New Zealand rounds the top mark ahead of Oracle Team USA in race four on day two of the America's Cup.

Emirates Team New Zealand rounds the top mark ahead of Oracle Team USA in race four on day two of the America's Cup. Photo: Photosport

In a word - No. While no one knows who will win the America's Cup - the dynamics in play now are very different from 2013.

For anyone who has managed to forget, Team New Zealand led the defender 8-1, needing just the surely inevitable one more win to take the Auld Mug back home.

Neither the win nor the cup came.

In 2013, Team New Zealand had its boat as good as it would get virtually from day one.

Oracle was still figuring out its boat, and following the infamous "day off" allowed by Team New Zealand, came back with a new tactician in Ben Ainslie and a new mojo.

The rest is cup history. Oracle TeamUSA still has the trophy at the Golden Gate Yacht Club.

Fast forward to today.

Oracle entered the Cup final following a fortnight of clear time to develop and improve its boat, including training sessions with its sister outfit, Softbank Team Japan.

Team New Zealand emerged battle-hardened from its challenger final win over Artemis and still had days to fine-tune the boat.

Publicly both teams say they can do more with their boats.

In Oracle's case, cup watchers wonder whether giant leaps forward are realistic. The one-design elements narrow the range for major change, and teams are limited in the number of all-important foils they can make.

The American team is also not considered to be sailing badly, they are simply up against a boat which in conditions so far, is clearly faster and well-sailed.

In 2013, watching Dean Barker face the media, defeat after defeat, was to watch a skipper who seemed to know there was little he could do with the boat he had.

Peter Burling exudes a calm confidence that Team New Zealand is an outfit still on the up.

Extraordinarily, when I asked him how the team out in front knew where to look for further improvement, the 26-year-old Olympic world champion and gold medallist cited his own past experience with Olympic and Team NZ sailing partner Blair Tuke.

"Blair and myself in the 49er kept pushing forward even when we were ahead, we've got plenty of things to work on," he told RNZ.

Jimmy Spithill, looking strained but keeping the upbeat message, calls the next five days a "great opportunity."

"San Francisco, when we were at this point we were pretty much at matchpoint at 8-1 and we had a lay day," he told RNZ.

"We're not even half way through the competition, these guys are 3-0 up and we have five days to make changes."

The real San Francisco moment was the one when you realised that nothing was inevitable, and here it's no different.

Peter Burling knows that.

"To do that (win the cup) we've gotta win eight races. We're really happy to take four so far. We know the next four are probably going to be the hardest races we've had."

Team New Zealand needs four wins, Oracle TeamUSA seven. When the television-driven, stop-start regatta resumes next weekend it'll run daily until a winner emerges.

Let's end with an old cup saying: "The America's Cup has already been won, we just don't know who it is yet."

Get the new RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs

We have regular online commentary of local and international sport.