Or­a­cle in cri­sis mode af­ter 2 more losses

San Francisco Chronicle - - SPORTS - By Bernie Wil­son Bernie Wil­son is an As­so­ci­ated Press writer.

HAMILTON, Bermuda — Jimmy Sp­ithill and his mates with Or­a­cle Team USA might need to start tap­ping out an SOS from the Bermuda Tri­an­gle.

The two-time de­fend­ing Amer­ica’s Cup cham­pi­ons are strug­gling badly against hot­shot young helms­man Peter Burl­ing and Emi­rates Team New Zealand, who are threat­en­ing to sail away with the old­est tro­phy in in­ter­na­tional sports.

Burl­ing, 26, steered the Ki­wis’ fast 50-foot cata­ma­ran to two more dom­i­nat­ing vic­to­ries Sun­day to re­main un­de­feated in the matchup on the Great Sound. Or­a­cle made an un­forced er­ror when its cata­ma­ran came off its foils early on the down­wind sec­ond leg of Race 3. That was enough for Burl­ing to speed away around the seven-leg course. In Race 4, the Ki­wis held a slim lead at the first mark and sim­ply took con­trol.

Al­though they’ve won the first four races, the Ki­wis lead Or­a­cle 3-0. Be­cause Or­a­cle won the qual­i­fiers, the chal­lenger started the 35th Amer­ica’s Cup match with a neg­a­tive point.

Team New Zealand needs to win four more races to re­turn the Auld Mug to the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron in Auck­land, where it resided from 1995 through 2003. Or­a­cle needs to win seven to keep the sil­ver tro­phy in the pos­ses­sion of the Golden Gate Yacht Club and in the hands of one of the world’s rich­est men, soft­ware ty­coon Larry El­li­son.

Or­a­cle Team USA has five days to come up with some an­swers to try to counter the spot-on de­sign in­no­va­tions by the Ki­wis, who nearly folded af­ter their epic col­lapse in the 2013 Amer­ica’s Cup on San Fran­cisco Bay.

“I think it’s pretty ob­vi­ous these guys are faster and we need to make some se­ri­ous changes,” a glum-look­ing Sp­ithill said. “To­day I thought we got off the line pretty well, but they were pretty im­pres­sive ac­cel­er­at­ing . ... Clearly, we need to now put ev­ery­thing back on the ta­ble.

“I think these next five days will be the most im­por­tant five days of the cam­paign,” he said.

The Ki­wis and their cy­cling grind­ing sys­tem have proven too fast for Or­a­cle in light, shifty wind. They’ve also made the right choices on which foils to use on the ends of their dag­ger­boards. The Ki­wis used the same foils they did in speed­ing to two vic­to­ries Satur­day while Or­a­cle’s crew ap­peared to use two dif­fer­ent foils.

The crafty Ki­wis are us­ing a “cy­clor” grind­ing sys­tem. They’ve built four sta­tion­ary cy­cling sta­tions into each hull to tap leg power in­stead of tra­di­tional arm power from the grinders to power the hy­draulic sys­tems that con­trol the wing main­sail and the dag­ger­boards. Si­mon van Velthooven, who won a bronze medal in track cy­cling at the Lon­don Olympics, was aboard for Race 3. Olympic row­ing cham­pion Joe Sul­li­van re­placed him for Race 4.

As for Or­a­cle’s foil se­lec­tion, “I thought we made a good step for­ward,” Sp­ithill said. “I thought we were faster than yes­ter­day but un­for­tu­nately, it’s just not enough. But we know that. We’re not go­ing to hide from the truth.”

Gregory Bull / As­so­ci­ated Press

Helms­man Peter Burl­ing (top) has Emi­rates Team New Zealand is up 3-0.

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