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Ainslie's Team USA set up America's Cup decider

ESPN staff
September 25, 2013 « Live County Championship coverage | Chartbeat test »
Team USA stand on the verge of a dramatic fightback against Team New Zealand © AP
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Team USA claimed their six and seventh consecutive America's Cup race wins to complete a stunning fightback against Team New Zealand and take the 19-race showdown to a decider.

The defending champions started the series with a two-race penalty and looked finished when the Kiwi crew opened up an 8-1 lead in San Francisco last week, needing just one more race win for victory.

Since then, however, the American boat has surged back after installing British Olympian Ben Ainslie as tactician, levelling the series with two more wins on the penultimate day and setting up a dramatic finale in the chase for the oldest international trophy in sports, the Auld Mug.

With fresh winds on San Francisco Bay, Ainslie forced Team New Zealand into two right-of-way penalties at the start of race 17, leaving Team USA clear to wrap up a 27-second victory.

Kiwi skipper Dean Barker finally got off to a good start in race 18 and led as they rounded the downwind gate, but Team USA surged past during a tacking duel to run away with the race by 54 seconds and move within sight of one of the most dramatic victories in the 162-year history of the regatta.

"It doesn't matter how stiff the challenge is, the boys stuck their heads down and out-ground the other team. Very impressive," said Team USA skipper Jimmy Spithill.

"What gives us confidence is we've really improved the boat. It's just going great. We're looking forward to getting on the racetrack and having one hell of a fight. It's the most exciting day of all of our lives and we wouldn't want to be anywhere else."

Ainslie said that he did not plan to do anything differently ahead of tonight's showdown.

"You just have to approach it like you have every other race," he told Sky Sports News. "You really have to go out and go through the same preparations, the same preparation of the boat, the same preparation in the morning, the pre-start warm-up and of course - like every other race - the guys will give it everything all the way to the finish."

Team USA were docked two races before the regatta after a number of technical infringements were discovered in their junior boats during the warm-up series in 2012.

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