SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Skipper Jimmy Spithill and defending champion Oracle Team USA sped away from Emirates Team New Zealand to win Race 14 by 23 seconds Sunday on San Francisco Bay and remain alive in the America's Cup.
It was the third straight victory and fifth in seven races for Oracle, which has sailed much better after an awful start.
On match point since Wednesday, The Kiwis saw their lead shrink to 8-4. They need one more victory to wrest the oldest trophy in international sports from software billionaire Larry Ellison.
Oracle was docked two points in the biggest cheating scandal in the 162-year history of the America's Cup and needs five more wins to keep the Auld Mug.
Spithill controlled the start against rival Dean Barker and kept his 72-foot catamaran ahead the whole race, sometimes leading by more than 300 yards.
Race 15 was scheduled later Sunday.
After the regatta had been slowed by too much wind, too little wind and wind from the wrong direction, Race 14 started in about 14 knots of breeze, which dropped as the boats circled the five-leg course between the Golden Gate Bridge and the Embarcadero.
Spithill controlled the start and rounded the reaching first mark ahead by 6 seconds. The boat opened a lead of more than 300 yards sailing downwind. The Kiwis closed to within about 30 yards when the boats crossed on the windward third leg as they zigzagged toward the Golden Gate Bridge.
Oracle made an extra tack at the top of the leg in order to make a left turn at the third gate mark and go farther offshore. Leading by 15 seconds at the mark, the American-backed boat — which has only one American on its 11-man crew — again opened a lead of more than 300 yards.
New Zealand closed again, but then sailed into lighter breeze and Spithill raced ahead.
Race 14 had been postponed Saturday when the wind never settled into the customary southwesterly direction the course is set for.
The fickle conditions on San Francisco Bay have already cost the Kiwis the chance to clinch the Cup. On Friday, Race 13 was abandoned because of the 40-minute time limit with the Kiwis well ahead on the fourth leg in light breeze. When the wind rose and the race was re-sailed, Oracle won to stay alive.