2013-09-12 / Around Town

Oracle Team Faces Stiff Challenge

Newporter Larry Ellison and his Oracle Team USA, the defending America's Cup champions, are facing stiff competition against the Emirates Team New Zealand. Oracle Team USA was so badly beaten by the Kiwis in Race 5, on Tuesday, Sept. 10, that Ellison's team had to call timeout.

Ellison, the software billionaire who runs Oracle Corp., and who sometimes calls the City by the Sea home, let Team New Zealand speed off to a resounding victory of 1 minute, 5 seconds, on San Francisco Bay.

Not long before the scheduled start of Race 6, Oracle Team USA radioed in to the race committee that it was playing its one postponement card of the regatta, meaning the race was scrubbed until Thursday, Sept. 12. The Kiwis had nullified any momentum the Oracle gained with its win in Race 4 on Sunday.

Team New Zealand leads 4 to minus 1 and needs five more wins in order to claim the oldest trophy in international sports for the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron.

In a rare bit of controversy and embarrassment, an international jury docked Ellison’s Oracle two points and eliminated its wing sail trimmer from the regatta in what some are calling the biggest cheating scandal in the 162-year history of the America's Cup. Oracle now needs 10 wins to keep the Auld Mug. The 72-foot catamaran representing the U.S. has made numerous errors and Team New Zealand continues to make strong gains sailing upwind.

The decision to play the postponement card was a stunning move for the well-funded sailing team that won the America's Cup in 2010. Oracle Team USA Skipper Jimmy Spithill stated in an interview that the decision was made by the brain trust on the race boat. It was an ironic development, considering that Oracle practiced its upwind sailing and tacking last Monday, an off day. The Kiwis chose to stay ashore.

While Wednesday, Sept. 11, is an off day, the Oracle plans to go out and practice. The Kiwis plan to stay ashore and use simulators to try to improve their starts, a tactical area where they are considered weak.

Oracle Team USA led on the first two legs Tuesday. Oracle then called for a foiling tack, a radical, quick turn around the downwind mark. The crew botched the tack and practically came to a stop, costing it almost all of its 150-meter lead. – By Daniel Highet

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