WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — For New Zealand fans, their patronizing good wishes for Oracle Team USA to at least making a contest of the America's Cup have now given way to the stark fear that their team is about to be on the end of one of sport's most remarkable turnarounds.
When Emirates Team New Zealand sailed to an 8-1 series lead, needing only one more win to regain sport's oldest trophy, the Kiwis prepared to celebrate, but the champagne has remained on ice for a week in which Oracle has roared back to make it 8-8, setting up Wednesday's winner-takes-all showdown.
It's been agonizing for the fans in New Zealand, where the series captures huge audience shares on television and intense media interest.
At the Royal Port Nicholson Yacht Club on Wellington's waterfront, Terry Steven said he has been skipping work to watch each morning, thanks to an understanding business partner.
He said he's felt like he's stuck in the headlights with a truck bearing down on him.
"It's been tough watching it," he said. "But you've got to give credit to Oracle for an amazing comeback. If they win it, they deserve it."
Another avid viewer at the club each day has been Kate Robinson, a competitive sailor who has raced in the storied Sydney to Hobart yacht race.
She said a week ago she was supporting Oracle's Australian skipper Jimmy Spithill. Not now.
"I wanted him to do better," she said. "But not this well."
And if Team New Zealand loses?
"I'll probably cry," she said. And she wasn't joking.