US takes key America's Cup triumph
Oracle Team USA competes against Emirates Team New Zealand during the 34th America's Cup on September 14, 2013 in San Francisco.
And the Americans' effort to retain the trophy was bolstered when the ninth race was halted due to high winds above the safety limits with Emirates Team New Zealand leading into the third leg.
For the first time in the best-of-17 regatta, Oracle Team USA finished a race day without a defeat.
"This is a big moment for us. We came from behind today," Oracle skipper Jimmy Spithill said.
"It is just what the team needed. We are the underdog for sure, but I think we like it. Everyone is motivated and hungry."
Races nine and 10 were set to take place on Sunday, with the Kiwi team having won six races but still three triumphs shy of capturing the trophy.
Emirates Team New Zealand beat the defending champion over the starting line and held a lead of seven seconds rounding the second marker in race number eight.
The Americans turned the tables on New Zealand in the upwind third leg that had been their undoing in each of the prior battles on San Francisco Bay.
Oracle closed the gap in the leg, with the New Zealand catamaran nearly flipping over as the rivals crossed paths. New Zealand was hit with a penalty and lost the lead.
"That is about as close as you could possibly get before the thing goes back on its side," said New Zealand skipper Dean Barker.
"I think we had someone looking down on us and giving us a little help."
The New Zealand team planned to analyze the closely averted calamity, but it appeared that the boat hurried into a maneuver without sufficient hydrolic pressure needed to maintain control through the turn, according to Barker.
"These boats require good coordination between the guys and normally you have time to prepare," Barker said.
"There are times you rush things and your timing is slightly out," he continued. "It cost us the race and came very close to costing us a lot more than that."
"I was surprised," Spithill said. "I thought they were going over."
Oracle had a 28 second lead by the time New Zealand cautiously rounded the third gate and the Americans crossed the finish line 52 seconds ahead of the challenger.
The win was critical for the Americans, who need nine more victories to retain possession of yachting's coveted trophy after being penalized two wins by event officials for rule violations before the start of the regatta.
Prior to racing Saturday, Oracle made an array of small changes to its AC72 catamaran, including lightening the boat by removing a pole on the bow for holding a large sail used if there is little or no wind.
The gamble paid off for Oracle, as winds climbed through the day.
"The design team worked very hard and we were rewarded," Spithill said. "We don't want to let these guys take the cup. We are going to do whatever we can to race well."
Barker remained confident in his team and their catamaran.
"We are still happy with the way the boat is going," Barker said. "Like any other sport, there are all sorts of examples where there is danger when you are pushing the edge."
The teams competing for the America's Cup are racing in AC72s -- 22-meter (72-foot) wing-sail catamarans that are incredibly demanding to sail.
On May 9, one of the three Louis Vuitton challengers to holders Oracle Team USA, Artemis, lost crew member Andrew Simpson during a training run.
The Swedish AC72 capsized and Simpson, a British double Olympic medallist, drowned after getting stuck under the overturned structure.
Eleven crew members are needed for the boats, which are 22 meters long, 14 meters wide and weigh six tons. They reach speeds of more than 40 knots (75 k/hr, 46 mph)
"These boats demand a huge amount of respect," Barker said. "We don't think these boats are dangerous. We think you have to be completely on your game and design a boat which is safe."