FINAL SHOWDOWN LOOMS AS PENALTY DENIES JAPANESE MATCH POINT

© Matt Knighton

SoftBank Team Japan - 3 vs. Artemis Racing - 4

SoftBank Team Japan's challenge to win the America's Cup will come down to a crucial, final pair of races against Artemis Racing tomorrow in Bermuda as the Swedes fought back to win three races in the semi-final racing today despite a contentious penalty on the final mark rounding.

"It would've been good to get another point on the day but we take a lot of heart, the boat was going well and we kept coming back at them", said Skipper and CEO Dean Barker.

"They were sailing really strong races so it was hard to find space to pass.  The third one we had a good race and the top mark ended up costing us the win."

The racing was never closer than it was today with Artemis Racing and SoftBank Team Japan in virtual lockstep around the course in all three contests.

However, even with the first two races ultimately going the way of the Swedes, it was the third and final race of the day that raised many eyebrows.

SoftBank Team Japan's speed kept them in the game right from the start as the Japanese team defended the leeward position on the first reach to lead at Mark 1 and extend through the bottom gate.

Looking to break free from the strong Japanese position Artemis Racing was able to force a split then on the first upwind leg from where both teams remained at odds through the whole race.

Despite being quicker upwind and ultimately crossing in front of the Swedes three times on the final beat, Artemis hooked into a shift on the lefthand side of the course to set up a port starboard at the top mark.

With the Japanese on starboard tack speeding in towards the left mark, Artemis gained right of way by entering protection first and threw in an aggressive tack around the gate.

Although SoftBank Team Japan gave room for the Swedes, the umpires ultimately decided it was not enough space and penalized the Japanese leading to a costly time deficit that handed the race to Artemis Racing.

"There's a lot of situations around the course which come down to instinctive decisions", said Skipper and CEO Dean Barker.

"We felt like there was enough room there and were surprised we got the penalty but obviously the umpires felt strongly that was the way it should go. If that's the case then you get on with it."

With the Swedes now leading the semi-finals at 4-3 in the first-to-five series, SoftBank Team Japan must win both of tomorrows races to advance to the next round of the competition.

It will truly be an epic day of racing with the most recent forecast calling for windspeeds at the top-end of 21-22 knots - similar conditions to the hairy weather seen Tuesday where the Japanese team dominated Artemis Racing taking two wins.

"We know we're right there. It's not going to take a lot to go out and win tomorrow. We had a day a few days ago where we won both races. Today Artemis did a good job to get three wins, it could've easily been 2-1. We'll come out tomorrow and with the forecast being pretty strong breeze we're excited about the challenge that we'll face.