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Oracle must improve to avoid a clean sweep

Sir Russell Coutts

Clean sweeps are nothing new in the America’s Cup Match.

After such a dominant start to the 35th edition of the “Auld Mug”, Team Emirates New Zealand would certainly love a whitewash.

To be honest, though, it’s not unusual for the America’s Cup to be one-sided.

It was a close match in 1983 when Australia beat the American Freedom Syndicate 4-3.

But it was a sweep in 1987 when Sail America reclaimed the trophy from Australia.

And it was almost a clean sweep in 1992 when America beat Raul Gardini’s Il Moro di Venezia 4-1, while it was another landslide win in 1995 when Team New Zealand defeated Sail America 5-0.

That trend followed in 2000, when New Zealand won 5-0 against Prada Challenge, the same result as it was 2003 when Alinghi beat the Kiwis.

In 2007, New Zealand, the challenger, won two out of the five races, while the closest match was in 2013 when Oracle Team USA staged one of the greatest comebacks in sport, defeating the Kiwis 9-8.

Historically, it’s always been a case of one team dominating the other.

It’s a shame this year’s event has been so lopsided so far. We all hoped for a really good fight.

From the sport’s perspective, I hope Oracle have made some improvements and that the races are at least a bit closer tomorrow and Sunday.

Because Emirates Team New Zealand have been totally dominant, lighting up every turn and mark last weekend, and are just four races away from the title.

Oracle have trailed before, though — in San Francisco four years ago — but this time it feels a bit different.

There are more subtle differences between the two boats and so far the Kiwis have come up with the better solutions. A lot of talk has surrounded Team New Zealand’s cyclors, as opposed to traditional grinders, and it’s hard to know how much of an impact they have had.

However, I don’t think that’s been the performance difference; I think it’s more in the design of the foils — the thickness and perhaps even the shapes.

And let’s not forget how well Peter Burling, the helmsman, and his crew are sailing the boat.

They weren’t only faster last weekend, they sailed extremely well.

It was a very impressive performance, you have to say that, and I think everyone was a bit surprised — maybe even the Kiwis!

Oracle will have focused over the past five days on making gains and looking at the logical pathways to do that.

It may involve taking a risk or two and they’re going to have to improve their performance. One thing’s for sure, the only way they’re going to put the Kiwis under pressure is if they can improve their speed and race them in a boat-for-boat race.

It’s a different wind direction this weekend, and although that doesn’t sound like it makes much of a difference, it just might.

Potentially, it could be the final weekend and I think Bermuda has put on a great show.

I’ve received comments from all over the world, with people being very complimentary about the Great Sound as a venue. And I know the visitors have absolutely loved it here!

Initially, there were question marks over whether Bermuda could deliver as a host. For me, those questions have all been answered.

It’s already been a fantastic event.

Sir Russell Coutts was talking to Stephen Wright