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Team USA get swagger back in America's Cup

dpa logodpa 24/06/2017 Bernie Wilson

Team USA have won their first race of the 35th America's Cup but Team New Zealand lead the first-to-seven series 4-1.

Australian skipper Jimmy Spithill has his swagger back, meaning it's game on in the America's Cup on the Great Sound.

Spithill skippered two-time defending champion Team USA to its first victory of the regatta, taking a thriller in race six to earn a split on Saturday in Bermuda and slow the momentum of Team New Zealand.

It's no bother to Spithill that Team USA merely cut Team New Zealand's lead in the first-to-seven regatta to 4-1.

Team New Zealand has won five races but began with a negative point because Oracle won the qualifiers.

Until the sixth race, the powerhouse American squad, owned by software tycoon Larry Ellison and crewed mostly by Australians, had been humbled by the underfunded but crafty Kiwis and their fast 50-foot, foiling catamaran helmed by 26-year-old America's Cup rookie Peter Burling.

But Spithill's been here before.

In 2013, Team USA trailed Team New Zealand 8-1 on San Francisco Bay before winning eight straight races to complete one of the greatest comebacks in sports.

Not only did Team USA make their boat faster during a five-day break in racing, but Spithill, who was a pretty fair boxer during his youth in Australia, regained his edge as a master at mind games.

Spithill said his team had seen the Kiwis taking a few days off during the week while Team USA sailed every day.

He said he feels the Kiwis have been on the favourable end of "a few soft penalties" by the umpires.

"Now we've got confidence," the 37-year-old Spithill said.

"Everyone on the team has just been going full noise the whole week. We've seen these guys taking days off. That's good. I love seeing that."

Team USA was clearly was faster than the opening weekend wipeout, when the Kiwis won four straight races by margins from 30 to 88 seconds.

But Team USA have made mistakes, which Spithill acknowledged.

They were penalised twice and had a costly manoeuvre in the first race, allowing the Kiwis to speed off to a victory of 2:04, the biggest in the match.

Team USA came back and won race six by 11 seconds, the closest margin so far.

"We know we can do this," Spithill said.

"We've been there before. The most important thing I remember from San Francisco was getting a win on the board. That was the key thing That's why today was very, very important. You see the team's pumped up now. They're ready to get to work.

"We all saw today that the boat was faster."

Burling defended the Kiwis taking a few days off.

He said it was a great opportunity for the shore team to work on their boat.

"I don't think we sailed that well today, to be honest but we're really happy with the lead we've got," he said.

Races seven and eight are scheduled for Sunday.

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