SAN FRANCISCO -- The America's Cup refuses to end. Just when you thought it was safe for the entire country of New Zealand to douse itself in celebratory beer, Larry Ellison's boat and Mother Nature's breeze combined to become anti-dousers and prevent the revelry. At least temporarily.
(For the record, race officials confirmed that rich-guy Ellison did not pay off Ms. Nature to make it happen. Although she was suspiciously seen leaving the docks in a new Tesla.)
If you love jibs and keels or just great scenery, Thursday was a fairly dramatic spectacle here on the bay. With Ellison and Oracle Team USA facing elimination, his catamaran crew was whipped across the water and pulled off a wire-to-wire victory in the afternoon's first scheduled race to post its second point of the regatta.
The day's second race was then postponed when a stiff wind, combined with an ebb tide, made the racecourse too dangerous. Two more races are scheduled Friday. So the beer remains on ice, although New Zealand retains a commanding lead in the best-of-17 series. The Kiwis own eight points. They need nine to win.
"We've almost got nothing to lose," said jaunty USA skipper Jimmy Spithill.
True. But does the American boat honestly have a chance to pull off an amazing comeback and win this thing?
The short answer: No.
The long answer: No, no, no, no, no. And no.
Reason: Odds are just too long. The largest-ever America's Cup comeback occurred in 1983 during a best-of-seven finals when Australia fell behind the USA boat of Dennis Conner by three victories to one -- and then the Aussies rallied to win three straight.
Oracle Team USA's situation is far more difficult this time. It must win seven consecutive races to seize the Cup. That's because Ellison's team sustained a two-point penalty before the regatta began as a penalty for cheating in a series of races one year ago.
Above all, this meant Oracle Team USA could not afford a bad start in the America's Cup. Spithill blew it by losing the first three races and six of the first seven. He has been sailing uphill ever since. Over the last two weeks, he has won four of the 12 races on the water. But courtesy of the penalty, the Americans remain six points behind New Zealand.
"Yes, we can win seven more races," Spithill insisted Thursday afternoon, explaining that Oracle's boat designers have discovered adjustments that could make such a shocking rally possible.
(By the way, from this point forward, no pronoun will ever be used as a substitute for Spithill's name in this column, because it's just too much fun to write Spithill.)
"I think the thing that's giving us the confidence is the boat," Spithill said. "The guys now believe they've got the tool that we can use to get it done."
If Spithill says so. For now, Spithill will simply continue to dash the hopes and dreams of the Kiwi grade schoolers who are watching these races -- they air around breakfast time in New Zealand -- in their classrooms. Oracle Team USA can also frustrate the several thousand of the nation's residents who have made their way to San Francisco and are itchy to get things clinched. On the shore, they still clearly outnumber the people rooting for the Americans.
Spithill admitted that he was "loving every minute" of making the Kiwis fidget nervously. As a native Australian wearing USA colors, Spithill no doubt does take some extra satisfaction from postponing the inevitable. Australians and New Zealanders have a far more passionate rivalry than New Zealanders and Americans.
The real issue at this point, though, is how the weather conditions are affecting the show. This week has been particularly frustrating. Between Wednesday and Friday, six races were scheduled. Only two were actually raced. At 2 p.m. or so every day, a breeze kicks up across the bay and it combines with an ebb tide to create hazardous conditions.
The teams agreed on a safe wind limit before the series. But after Oracle Team USA found it could handle the stronger winds, it has asked officials to consider raising that limit.
Dean Barker, the New Zealand skipper, is not amused by this development.
"It seems a little strange that halfway through the series, you want to change the rules," Barker said Thursday, in the traditional snarky yet congenial New Zealand way.
"We're here to race," Spithill said, in the traditional Australian-Native-Now-Racing-For-The-USA stalwart Spithill way.
For one more day, anyway.