SAN FRANCISCO — Even with the most successful sailor in Olympic history onboard, defending America's Cup champion Oracle Team USA simply can't catch Emirates Team New Zealand.
The plucky Kiwis beat Oracle Team USA twice more Thursday, moving closer to taking the America's Cup Down Under for the second time in 18 years.
The Kiwis turned a close Race 6 into a 47-second victory. They then put a whitewashing on Larry Ellison's syndicate in the seventh race, leading the whole way for a victory of 1 minute 6 seconds.
Team New Zealand leads 6 to minus-1 and needs three more victories to claim the oldest trophy in international sports for the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron.
The way the Kiwis are sailing, the clincher could come Sunday afternoon on San Francisco Bay. Friday is a lay day, with Races 8 and 9 on Saturday. Two more races are scheduled for Sunday.
Oracle Team USA, owned by software billionaire Ellison of Oracle Corp., was docked two points in the biggest cheating scandal in the 162-year history of the America's Cup. It still needs to win 10 races to keep the Auld Mug at the Golden Gate Yacht Club.
The American syndicate — which has only one American on its 11-man crew — couldn't catch Kiwi skipper Dean Barker even after replacing tactician John Kostecki with British star Ben Ainslie, the most successful sailor in Olympic history.
Even though the five-leg course has just one upwind leg, the Kiwis are simply too good and too quick when the 72-foot catamarans are zigzagging toward the Golden Gate Bridge.
On Thursday morning, skipper Jimmy Spithill replaced Kostecki with Ainslie, who won four straight Olympic gold medals as well as a silver for Britain. The 36-year-old Ainslie was knighted in March.
Until Thursday, Ainslie had served as helmsman of the backup boat, helping to prep Spithill for the regatta. The move had been expected since Kostecki called for a foiling tack that the American syndicate failed to execute in a punishing loss in Race 5 on Tuesday.