A stunning comeback by America's Cup defender Oracle Team USA has put it level with Emirates Team New Zealand. Yachting's prestige regatta off San Francisco will be decided by a winner-take-all finale.
The US team, which last week trailed the Kiwis 1-8, won its seventh straight race on Tuesday to set up a Cup decider for Wednesday in San Francisco Bay – weather permitting.
In Tuesday's two races, the US team twice overtook Team New Zealand to win by 27 and then 54 seconds respectively.
That completely eroded the match point advantage held for nearly a week by the Kiwi challengers.
The ultra-modern catamarans fitted with hydrofoils reached speeds of up to 80 kilometers an hour (50 miles per hour) during phases of Tuesday's racing.
"We have come back from a very deep hole and we want this," said the Oracle skipper Jimmy Spithill, a 34-year-old Australian.
"This team has just been through so much and some incredibly difficult times," Spithill said, referring to a two-point penalty imposed during warm-up racing for the Cup.
Oracle's first boat capsized last October and its wing sail was destroyed, costing the team four months of training time until a new one arrived from New Zealand.
'Tough to handle'
New Zealand skipper Dean Barker whose team has sat on match point for nearly a week said losing Tuesday's races was "tough to handle."
"It is frustrating, but we know we can still win this," Barker said, adding that his US rivals had "sailed really well to get back in the event."
"Both teams are equally hungry to win this thing," said Barker, referring the Cup and its 162-year history.
In the lead-up to the Cup, Barker's team had trounced Italian and Swedish challengers for the right to race Oracle.
In New Zealand's capital Wellington, fans who have watched televised coverage from San Francisco, said they were agonized by the turnaround.
"It's been tough watching it," said one fan, Terry Steven.
The Cup's decider and 19th race of the series is scheduled for Wednesday, assuming the weather and the tidal conditions in San Francisco Bay are deemed safe by officials.
The America's Cup, first contested in 1851, was won in 2010 in Valencia, Spain, by a trimaran team led by Oracle software billionaire Larry Ellison.
He brought the race to San Francisco and set the scene for high-speed AC72 catamarans to race this year.
The Kiwis first won the America's Cup in 1995 and successfully defended it in 2000 before losing the trophy three years later to a Swiss team.
ipj/rg (AP; Reuters, AFP)