SAN FRANCISCO – Oracle Team USA came into the 34th America’s Cup in a hole.
On Saturday, that hole got deeper.
Already entering Day 1 down two points because of a penalty incurred for cheating during last year’s America’s Cup World Series, Oracle essentially fell four points behind as Emirates Team New Zealand swept Races 1 and 2 on San Francisco Bay.
Officially, New Zealand leads the best-of-17 sailing series 2-0. But in reality, Oracle — the America’s Cup defender — needs to win two races to get to zero. For all practical purposes, the score is New Zealand 2, Oracle minus-2.
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The Kiwis need seven more victories to take the Cup back to New Zealand. Oracle needs to win 11 races to retain the oldest trophy in sports.
Despite Oracle’s predicament, skipper Jimmy Spithill remained confident, insisting the two AC72 catamarans are evenly matched and that “small little mistakes here and there will decide the outcome of the races.”
New Zealand skipper Dean Barker sounded intent on not getting complacent, saying, “The teams are very even from what we can see.”
That appeared to be the case early in an entertaining Race 1 that had close racing. It was the first time during this summer’s action, which began with the Louis Vuitton Cup challenger series, spectators saw the type of competition organizers hoped for with these high-tech, 72-foot, wing-sailed marvels.