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From the Boathouse: Can U.S. top the Kiwi crew?

September 12, 2013|By Mike Whitehead

Ahoy!

Oracle Team USA and Emirates Team New Zealand are tearing up the waters inside San Francisco Bay, battling to win the America's Cup final.

I was at the media center for the first four races in the challenge for the Cup on Saturday and Sunday, and the excitement of the September Showdown did not disappoint the crowd, yet the Kiwis took a substantial lead in the points to win.

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Oracle Team USA began the final races with a two-point disadvantage. The team was penalized with the harshest penalty in the cup's history after getting caught making illegal modifications to their boat. The penalty included banning one racing crew member and two support crew members, plus a $250,000 fine, and finally, USA was dinged two points in the best-of-17 races to win the America's Cup.

The Measurement Committee and International Jury confirmed that the team had made modifications to its AC45 yacht(s) in 2012, however, and — important to note — not to their AC72s.

The AC45s are the smaller 45-foot catamarans, which all the teams raced while leading up to the Louis Vuitton challenger series in July. Apparently, the three expelled crew members hid extra ballast in the AC45's hulls to help add ballast weight to these very light boats during the races. No one other crewmembers, skipper or management team was involved, according to the international jury's findings.

Technically, before the first America's Cup race got underway Saturday, the score was already 2 to 0 with the Kiwis in the lead due to the two-point penalty. However, the race began with a score of 0 to 0 because scoring standards do not list a negative score. Therefore, the first two races won by Team USA will not be listed as wins with two points.

This is confusing to many spectators, but Team USA will show a positive score after winning its third race.

However, the Kiwis dominated the races on Saturday, with two amazing leads at the finish line. Team USA was late crossing the start line on race 1, and the Kiwis were first around mark 1 with speeds near 40 knots. The lead changed about halfway through the race, but the Kiwis rallied and crossed the finish line first with a 36-second delta until USA finished.

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