Oracle Team USA crosses the finish line during the 18th race of the America's Cup sailing event against Emirates Team New Zealand on Tuesday, Sept. 24, 2013, in San Francisco. Oracle Team USA won both races Tuesday to even the series. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
KTVU and AP Wires
SAN FRANCISCO —
As she has throughout the competition, Mother Nature was threatening Wednesday to cause a delay in the historic “One For The Cup” America’s Cup showdown between Oracle Team USA and Team New Zealand.
Forecasters said wind gusting as high as 30 knots could buffet the San Francisco Bay on Wednesaday afternoon. The limit for the race is 22 knot winds. Weather-permitting, Race 19 is scheduled to start at 1:15 p.m. PDT.
However, for American sailing fans the fact that there even is a race seems to be a miracle. All Team New Zealand needed was one win to take the Cup home but they have lost seven straight races.
The score now stands at 8-8. To win the Cup, a team needs 9 wins.
In New Zealand, the losing streak has drained a nation.
"It's been tough watching it," said Terry Steven, who has been skipping work to watch each day’s races at 8 a.m. local time at Wellington, New Zealand’s Royal Port Nicholson Yacht Club.
Kate Robinson, who has sailed in the famed Sydney to Hobart yacht race, has been at the Royal Port Nicholson club each day to watch the competition.
She said a week ago she was supporting Oracle's Australian skipper, Jimmy Spithill.
"I wanted him to do better," she said. "But not this well."
New Zealand first challenged for the America's Cup off Fremantle, Western Australia, in 1987, building the world's first glass-fiber 12-meter yacht to reach the challenger final before losing to American skipper Dennis Conner.
The Kiwis first won the trophy off San Diego in 1995 and became the first nation outside the United States to defend it when they retained the prize off Auckland in 2000. They lost it to Alinghi of Switzerland in 2003.
In order to keep Team New Zealand going after that loss, the New Zealand government injected taxpayer dollars into the team to supplement the contributions of international sponsors -- up to $40 million for the latest challenge.
While he has engineered an amazing comeback Spithill is not about to be overconfident going into Wednesday’s race. "It's not over. That's the key point here is, we've got to finish it off," said Spithill, a 34-year-old Australian who lives in San Diego with his American wife and their two young sons.
The finale for the oldest trophy in international sports was set up Tuesday when Oracle came through a wild start with two collisions to win Race 17, and then sped past the Kiwis after they made a tactical error to give up the lead in Race 18 in strong wind.
All but defeated a week ago, Oracle Team USA tied the faltering Kiwis 8-8 on the scoreboard by winning its 10th race overall. Oracle was docked two points for illegally modifying boats in warmup regattas and Dirk de Ridder, who trimmed the 131-foot wing sail, was disqualified.
If it hadn't been hit with the harshest penalties in the 162-year history of the America's Cup, Oracle Team USA's sailors would be hoisting the Auld Mug in victory and spraying each other with champagne.
Oracle has gotten faster as it's made changes to its black cat every night in its big boatshed on Pier 80 and has steadily learned to sail it better under the watchful eye of team CEO Russell Coutts, a four-time America's Cup winner.
But there's a bigger reason Oracle is still alive.
Watchdogs are questioning an exclusive agreement between the City of Oakland and a non-profit group, tapped to lead a multi-million dollar project to redevelop the area around the Coliseum BART station.