America's Cup 2017: Opinion - Team New Zealand entering familiar territory

OPINION: As Emirates Team New Zealand steamed to another victory over Oracle Team USA, it WAS hard not to think back to the last America's Cup.

Four convincing wins from the Kiwi syndicate has them 3-0 up on the defenders (thanks to that pesky -1 start), with the Americans falling into a hole that may be difficult to get out of.

Sound familiar?

Despite Team NZ's performances so far, no one is getting ahead of themselves, for one simple reason: San Francisco 2013. Everyone remembers  or more to the point, no one has forgotten - Oracle's dramatic comeback as Dean Barker and Team NZ stalled within touching distance of the Auld Mug.

But apart from Team NZ's early dominance of the Cup Match there are few similarities between what we're seeing in Bermuda and what transpired on San Francisco Bay.

In four races the only time Jimmy Spithill has been in front of Peter Burling was in Race 1, when Oracle jumped the gun and were penalised. The rest of the time - particularly this morning - the Americans could only watch as the New Zealand boat sailed away. Spithill admitted as much after today's races that the Kiwis have the faster boat.

Oracle had a fast boat in 2013 as well. It wasn't as fast as Team NZ's to begin with and wasn't sailed as well, but they made it faster and watched what the Kiwis were doing and did the same. But that won't be so easy for Spithill and his crew in Bermuda because Team NZ's set up is so different to Oracle's.

The defenders have tried to copy Team NZ's cycle grinding setup, installing a bike position for tactician Tom Slingsby at the back of the boat.

There was dockside chat early in the regatta that Oracle were developing something of their own but if it wasn't installed before the first race, there's no time left to do it. And because the "cyclors" are so integral to how the Kiwis power the hydraulics and control the boat, there's not a lot of common ground for Oracle to get any pointers from.

The race commentators have spoken repeatedly about the device Glenn Ashby uses to trim the wingsail, calling it revolutionary. The Team NZ skipper isn't pulling a sheet like every other boat in the regatta, instead using a small handheld controller and hydraulics to power the movement. Again, that's not something Oracle can pull out of thin air.

Speaking of thin air, the Kiwis have a clear advantage when the wind is at the lower end of the range. A lot of that is down to their "kinky" foils, shaped significantly different to Oracle's.

So far Team NZ have set up with the light wind foils on both days, and even today when Oracle might have had better speed to the first mark, the New Zealand boat had the advantage. Each team is limited to two sets of foils - one geared for light winds and the other heavier - and modifications take time Oracle no longer have.

But Oracle will come out swinging when racing resumes Sunday morning. They have five days to come up with something, and if the scuttlebutt is to be believed that will include training against the repurposed Team Japan boat.

Spithill clearly isn't the kind of character who rolls over easily. But he certainly hasn't been the same brash character we saw in the press conferences in San Francisco, even when they were 8-1 behind. Maybe because he knew a chance was coming then that may not be so obvious to the defenders this time.

Team NZ look to have made a good improvement themselves since the Challenger Finals - and even from yesterday to today - but they will need to keep doing the same. The one thing that does ring true from four years ago is no lead is safe in the America's Cup.

Greg Pearson is a sailing correspondent for Newshub.

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