20 Sep 2013

America's Cup battle heats up off the water

7:39 pm on 20 September 2013

The America's Cup contest between Team New Zealand and Oracle has heated up off the water with the two camps at loggerheads over the rules for wind speed limits.

For the 4th time in the America's Cup, the wind limit was exceeded on Friday, meaning just one race was possible, which Oracle won by 31 seconds.

Oracle skipper Jimmy Spithill says they have written asking Team New Zealand to agree to an increase in the allowable wind limit.

But Team New Zealand skipper Dean Barker says it was Oracle who prevented the wind limit exceeding the current 23 knot restriction.

Barker says it wouldn't be right to change the rules mid-way through the competition.

NZ still waiting on America's Cup glory

Team New Zealand remains one race away from America's Cup victory, after being beaten comfortably by Oracle in the first race on San Francisco Bay on Friday before the second race was called off.

The boats got to within almost a minute of an official start in the second race but the wind again went past the allowable race limit and officials postponed the race until Saturday.

View a photo gallery from the America's Cup

Oracle had the better of the start in the race that did go ahead, leading by five seconds at the first mark and extending that to eleven seconds at the second mark.

Team New Zealand reduced Oracle's lead to ten seconds by the third mark but Oracle extended the lead back out to 29 seconds, eventually crossing the line 31 seconds ahead of Team New Zealand.

The New Zealanders had been allocated the unfavoured side of the starting box, giving the defender a better chance of controlling the start.

Team New Zealand skipper Dean Barker says his crew knows they are in a battle and that there is no sure thing.

Barker admits he made a meal of the start, and Oracle exploited that to call the strategic shots and did not put a foot wrong.

Radio New Zealand's America's Cup correspondent in San Francisco Todd Niall told Nine to Noon the Americans are racing much more strongly than they were at the beginning of the series.

"They look like a different team to in the first race, they have managed to pick up their game, they have made changes to their boat and it is pretty even," he said.

Team New Zealand now leads the regatta 8-2. The next races are scheduled for Saturday when the weather looks more favourable.

Fans disappointed

Thousands of fans throughout the country were left disappointed by the loss and subsequent race postponement.

So many thousands of people had crowded into Shed 10 on Auckland's waterfront expecting a win that organisers had to accommodate them with extra seating and a second large screen.

The Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron in Westhaven was near capacity, cramming in more than 500 enthusiasts.

It was standing room only at the Port Nicholson Yacht Club on Wellington's Oriental Bay.

Oracle's win was met with polite applause and many fans were clearly disappointed when the second race was called off.

Radio New Zealand's reporter at the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron said some fans had already been planning their parties and celebratory trips out on the harbour before Friday's first race had even begun.

An estimated 5000 New Zealand supporters were also around key viewing locations in San Francisco, hoping in vain that Team New Zealand could secure the ninth and deciding point.