Oracle skipper Spithill tough on, off water in America's Cup

Oracle skipper Spithill tough on, off water in America's Cup

Team New Zealand has dominated the opening salvo, winning both races Saturday and Sunday by significant margins through a combination of better starts, slicker crew work, fewer mistakes and a lightning-fast boat, aided to some extent by the "cyclors" or leg grinders in place of traditional arm-powered winches to better power the hydraulic systems.

Team New Zealand helmsman Peter Burling, an America's Cup rookie who has won Olympic gold and silver medals with grinder Blair Tuke, steered the Kiwis to victories of 49 seconds and 1 minute, 12 seconds on the turquoise waters of the Great Sound.

And it was a similar story on Sunday, Peter Burling helping his crew to further victories to secure a 3-0 lead.

Oracle needs to win seven races.

"I don't know what you're talking about", Spithill said, all mock innocence when asked about New Zealand media reports that two bow sections had been seen being carried from the Americans' base to that of SoftBank Team Japan, the vanquished would-be challenger with whom the U.S. have had a close working relationship.

Before sitting out the challenger semi-finals and final, they topped the round-robin qualifying standings to earn a valuable bonus point that they take into the America's Cup proper.

The contest will resume next Saturday, with races five and six. Coutts successfully defended the Americas Cup in 2000 before jumping to Swiss startup syndicate Alinghi of Switzerland and sweeping his former team in 2003.

Still, this isn't the start the powerhouse Oracle squad expected.

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"Today was a really good day for us", Burling said.

"System, appendage, sailing technique and strategy - we're going to look at everything". Spithill and his team used the days between races to make a series of technical changes to their boat, including the now-legendary "Herbie", a device which smoothed out Oracle's foiling changes, giving the boat greater speed and stability.

Spithill said his team would have to take a good look at how the day's racing unfolded before they began to address their deficiencies. Clearly we need to now put everything back on the table.

But the Kiwis, the hard-luck losers to Oracle in 2013, later came off their foils during a difficult maneuver and slowed dramatically in light, shifty wind, losing half their lead.

The light, shifting conditions have also suited the Kiwis, who have made the right choices on which foils to use on the ends of their daggerboards.

Race 4 was to follow. "And we know if we step back they will catch us".

Spithill has never lacked confidence, whether it was as the 20-year-old skipper of a bare-bones Aussie challenge in the 2000 Americas Cup, or at age 30 becoming the youngest skipper to win sailings biggest prize.

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