HAMILTON, Bermuda — Emirates Team New Zealand won win its fifth straight race in the America’s Cup on Saturday, benefiting from two penalties against two-time defending champion Oracle Team USA.
The Kiwis and helmsman Peter Burling lead 4-0 and need to win three more races to return the Auld Mug to the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron in Auckland for the first time since 2003. Because Oracle won the qualifiers, the Kiwis started this America’s Cup match on the Great Sound with a negative point.
The underfunded but crafty Kiwis are humbling the powerhouse team owned by American software tycoon Larry Ellison.
The margin of 2 minutes, 4 seconds was the biggest of the match.
Oracle skipper Jimmy Spithill isn’t helping his cause with mistakes.
Spithill, an Australian, crossed the starting line a split second too soon and had to drop two lengths behind Team New Zealand.
He closed the gap and crossed just ahead of the Kiwis on the third leg.
The next time the boats came together, Team New Zealand was slightly ahead and on favoured starboard tack. Spithill dipped underneath. Both boats pushed the protest button, and the umpires decided Spithill didn’t give Burling enough room. That was enough to allow Burling to speed well ahead.
Oracle had another blunder on the fourth leg when it made a bad gybe and came off its foils.
At 26, Burling could become the youngest helmsman to win sailing’s greatest prize. Spithill was 30 when he won it in 2010.
Race 6 was to follow.
Bernie Wilson, The Associated Press