New Zealand one win away from America's Cup glory

by Rebecca BRYAN
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New Zealand one win away from America's Cup glory

New Zealand one win away from America's Cup glory

Hamilton (Bermuda) (AFP) - Helmsman Peter Burling and Emirates Team New Zealand defeated two-time defenders Oracle Team USA twice on Sunday to move within one victory of seizing the America's Cup.

The 26-year-old Burling bested Team USA skipper Jimmy Spithill in both pre-starts as he steered New Zealand to a pair of dominant victories that gave the Kiwis a 6-1 lead in the first-to-seven points series.

On Monday they'll try to claim the Cup for New Zealand for a third time, after Black Magic's victories in 1995 and 2000.

By doing so they could expunge the bitter memory of 2013, when they led Spithill and the USA 8-1 before falling 9-8 in San Francisco.

"We're just going to keep pushing forward," Burling said. "Nothing changes for us."

He said the young New Zealand crew -- with just one holdover from that crushing defeat four years ago -- are "enjoying the pressure" of a match they started with a one-point deficit -- thanks to Team USA's topping the round-robin qualifying.

"We're a pretty tough bunch," Burling said. "We got asked some questions yesterday. I feel like we answered them with our performance on the water."

Spithill, meanwhile, was conceding nothing.

"Clearly the plan wasn't to be in this position again, let me tell you," said Spithill, who became the youngest skipper to win the America's Cup when he piloted Oracle to victory in 2010.

Now an elder statesman at 37, he vowed Oracle would respond.

"It's a tall mountain to climb, no question," said Spithill, who confirmed the team would consider a significant crew change if they thought it would help.

"The team we roll out tomorrow, that'll be the team we think gives us the best chance of winning."

Spithill acknowledged that New Zealand just sailed better on Sunday as they ensured Oracle didn't build on their first victory of the series a day before.

In the opener, Spithill swerved slightly as the dueling catamarans headed for the start line, allowing Burling to blast across the line with a one-second lead.

Leading at the first mark, New Zealand were never really threatened en route to a 12-second win.

- 'Big mistake' -

In the second race, Burling out-foxed Spithill in the pre-start box to hit the startline a mammoth 14 seconds in front -- appearing to offer a wave to the rival crew.

New Zealand then displayed masterful control of their innovative cycle-powered boat, staying on their foils all the way around en route to a 30-second win.

"It makes life a little easier when you get off the start 14 seconds ahead," said Burling, who some thought would struggle when it came to pitting wits against match-racing master Spithill.

"We had a really good understanding of what they were trying to be able to do with their starts and a good strategy to oppose it.

"Full credit to the guys, holding it tight not giving them any chances to get back in the race."

Under pressure in the shifty winds, Oracle produced a series of mistakes that further doomed their chances, including a penalty for sailing through the boundary and a splash-down off their foils that saw them slow dramatically.

"We just had a hard time hooking up," Spithill said. "We thought we'd be able to pull the maneuver off. It was a big mistake and that really handed it to Pete.