Be afraid, United States. Be very afraid.
On Saturday, New Zealand got to within one win of reaching the America's Cup after taking a 6-1 lead on Italy. There's virtually no chance the Luna Rossa Challenge can make up that kind of gap, given how strong the Emirates Team New Zealand has been throughout the Louis Vuitton Cup.
One more victory, and the Kiwis will meet the defending champions, Oracle Team USA.
There's plenty Larry Ellison's team should be worried about as New Zealand has rampaged through the Italians. The U.S. will be able to put up a much tougher challenge, but there's no question New Zealand has been impressive throughout its best-of-13 series against Italy.
Everybody would have expected a New Zealand win. What's been impressive is the way it has gone about getting that victory. It takes just one turn or one pass, and that's the race. New Zealand gets ahead, and Italy has no chance.
The only victory for Luna Rossa was when the Kiwis' AC72's battery went dead. Without that malfunction, it's been nothing but New Zealand dominance.
When catamarans are traveling as fast as they are at the Louis Vuitton Cup, the margin for error is minute. One wrong move can throw everything off course or, worse, cause a boat to be capsized. The Kiwis have expertly handled their catamaran, especially with high winds in the San Francisco Bay. Even with two sailors going overboard, the Kiwis were able to fully recover.
It's been a decade since New Zealand has won the America's Cup. Its last win came in 2003, when it defended their America's Cup title.
Along with the motivation of breaking the winless streak, the Kiwis will be out to prove they're better than a team labeled as a cheater by its own managing director. According to the Associated Press, Grant Dalton believed that the Oracle Team cheated when it modified its boats last year without the Measurement Committee's permission (h/t ESPN.com).
With Dalton launching that shot across the bow of the United States, New Zealand knows it can't afford to go into the America's Cup and disappoint.
As the defending champion, Ellison's Oracle Team will be the favorite when it inevitably faces off with New Zealand in the America's Cup. Considering how strong the Kiwis have looked in qualifying for the event, the best-of-17 series could go right down to the wire.
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