SAN FRANCISCO — Emirates Team New Zealand is getting closer to pushing the delete button on software tycoon Larry Ellison in the America's Cup.
On one of the liveliest days of the regatta, Dean Barker and the rest of the Kiwi crew earned a split Sunday with Oracle Team USA to move within two races of yanking the oldest trophy in international sports away from the American-based powerhouse.
The day got revving when Oracle Team USA skipper Jimmy Spithill posted a tweet that some people found offensive. Spithill later deleted it.
It ended with a race that saw four lead changes, strong winds on San Francisco Bay and a shift in momentum back to the Kiwis.
"I think if you didn't enjoy today's racing you should watch another sport," Barker said.
Team New Zealand, which almost capsized during a 52-second loss Saturday, leads 7-1.
Monday is a lay day. If Team New Zealand sweeps Tuesday's two races — weather permitting — it will claim the Auld Mug for the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron for the second time in 18 years.
Even if it continues to split races, Team New Zealand can essentially run out the clock against Oracle Team USA, which brought the America's Cup back to the United States in 2010 after a 15-year absence.
"Exactly," said Barker, who added that there's "a lot of work to do still."
Oracle Team USA, owned by Ellison, needs to win eight more races to keep the Cup. It entered the series with a two-point penalty for the biggest cheating scandal in the Cup's 162-year history.
Oracle might have put some worry into the Kiwis by leading wire-to-wire to win Race 9 by 47 seconds, especially since changes to its catamaran and better crew work has Oracle sailing much better upwind.
It was the first time in this regatta that Oracle won consecutive races and had Ellison flashing a double thumbs-up from a chase boat.
Race 10 was even better, with four lead changes, the final one going to the Kiwis.
"That was a really big point for us, yeah," Barker said after steering his 72-foot catamaran to a 17-second victory. "We definitely needed it."
The Kiwis had two big moments in Race 10.
As the boats sped across the starting line in Race 10 toward the reaching first mark, Spithill had the acceleration, but his catamaran came off its hydrofoils at one point, allowing Barker to get the inside position. Barker was able to keep his 72-foot catamaran overlapped with Oracle for a 4-second lead turning onto the downwind second leg.
The boats swapped leads sailing upwind toward the Golden Gate Bridge, with Oracle leading by 1 second at the third gate.
The boats split gybes sailing downwind. When they came together, the American boat chose to slow and duck behind the Kiwis rather than gybing on them to cover, losing more than 100 yards.
Barker kept the lead as he rounded the fourth mark and sped to the finish line just off Pier 27-29.