Not long after Emirates Team New Zealand reached match point Wednesday against powerhouse Oracle Team USA, Race 12 was postponed because the wind blowing in through the Golden Gate Bridge exceeded the limit.
The 72-foot catamarans had just crossed the start line with Kiwi skipper Dean Barker holding a big advantage over rival Jimmy Spithill before Race 12 was scrubbed.
Organizers will try again on Thursday to get in two races, if necessary. Two races were postponed on Tuesday because of strong wind blowing against a big ebb tide.
The wind limit of 23 knots was reduced to 19.9 knots for Race 12 because of an ebb tide of 3.1 knots flowing out of San Francisco Bay. The wind peaked at 21.5 knots just before the start.
The wind limit was reduced from 33 knots to 23 knots as one of 37 safety recommendations made after British double Olympic medalist Andrew "Bart" Simpson was killed in the capsize of Artemis Racing's catamaran on May 9. The wind limit is affected by the day's tide.
Barker and the rest of the Kiwi crew won Race 11 by 15 seconds earlier Wednesday to move to the brink of taking the oldest trophy in international sports.
Team New Zealand leads 8-1. Oracle Team USA, owned by software tycoon Larry Ellison of Oracle Corp., was docked two points going into the match following the biggest cheating scandal in the 162-year history of the America's Cup.
Barker controlled Spithill at the start and led the whole way, building his lead on the crucial upwind third leg toward the Golden Gate Bridge.
Oracle had been sailing better on the course's only upwind leg but couldn't quite reel in the Kiwis on Wednesday. Team New Zealand led by 6 seconds at the second gate mark and extended it to 17 seconds at the third gate as it rounded back onto the downwind leg.
The Kiwis watched their lead of about 200 meters shrink to around 70 meters as the boats raced downwind on their foils, their hulls completely out of the water.
Neither crew had a good rounding of the fourth gate, yet the Kiwis sprinted first down the final reaching leg to the finish off America's Cup Park on Pier 27-29. As usual, there were hundreds of flag-waving New Zealanders cheering them on.
The race began in about 17 knots of wind blowing against a 2-knot ebb tide.
Barker was at the helm in 2003 when hard-luck Team New Zealand was swept in five races by its former skipper, Russell Coutts, and Alinghi of Switzerland. The Kiwis had to drop out of two races with breakdowns.
Three years earlier, after Coutts had delivered Team New Zealand to a 4-0 lead over Italy's Luna Rossa, he handed the wheel to Barker for the final race, which the Kiwis easily won.
Coutts is now CEO of Oracle Team USA. In 1995, Coutts and the late Peter Blake led Team New Zealand to a 5-0 win over Dennis Conner off San Diego as the small island national claimed the Cup for the first time.
Barker sailed the Kiwis back into the America's Cup match in 2007 before they lost 5-2 to Alinghi.
Now Barker needs just one more victorious sprint around San Francisco Bay to reclaim the silver trophy for the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron.