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Oracle beats New Zealand to keep America's Cup

By Bernie Wilson

Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 03:17 a.m. HST, Sep 26, 2013

SAN FRANCISCO >> Skipper Jimmy Spithill and Oracle Team USA won the America's Cup today with one of the greatest comebacks in sports history.

Spithill steered Oracle's space-age, 72-foot catamaran to its eighth straight victory, speeding past Dean Barker and Emirates Team New Zealand in the winner-take-all Race 19 on San Francisco Bay to keep the oldest trophy in international sports in the United States.

All but defeated a week ago, the 34-year-old Australian and his international crew twice rallied from seven-point deficits to win 9-8. Owned by software billionaire Larry Ellison, Oracle Team USA was docked two points for illegally modifying boats in warmup regattas and had to win 11 races to keep the Auld Mug.

After almost dunking its chances when it buried its bows in a wave shortly after the start, Oracle's hulking black catamaran -- with a big No. 17 on each hull -- showed its incredible speed when it reeled in the Kiwis while the boats zigzagged toward the Golden Gate Bridge on the windward third leg.

The New Zealanders were game despite being stranded on match point for a week. Spithill and crew still had to sail their best to end the longest, fastest and by far wildest America's Cup on a course between the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz Island.

Team New Zealand had the lead the first time the boats crossed on opposite tacks. By the time they crossed again, the American boat -- with only one American on its 11-man crew -- had the lead.

As Oracle worked to stay ahead, tactician Ben Ainslie, a four-time Olympic gold medalist from Britain, implored his mates by saying, "This is it. This is it. Working your (rears) off."

It had to have been a gut-wrenching moment in New Zealand, which has been on edge for a week as the Kiwis failed to close out the victory on a warm, sunny afternoon.

The Kiwis had been faster upwind in running away with races early, but Oracle constantly made changes to make its cat a speed freak.

As Spithill rounded the third mark onto the downwind fourth leg, his catamaran sprang onto its hydrofoils at 35 mph, its hulls completely out of the water, and headed for history.

There were hugs and handshakes after he steered the cat across the finish line, 44 seconds ahead of Team New Zealand. Ellison, who has spent an estimated $500 million the last 11 years in pursuing, winning and now defending the silver trophy, hopped on board and the crew sprayed him with champagne.

It wasn't always so jubilant, of course, but Spithill refused to let his team fold after the penalties were announced four days before racing started.

How big was this win?

In sailing terms, it was the equivalent of the Boston Red Sox sweeping the final four games of the 2004 ALCS over the New York Yankees, the only 3-0 comeback in major league history. It's also comparable to the Philadelphia Flyers overcoming a 0-3 deficit to beat the Boston Bruins in the 2010 NHL playoffs.

As stirring of a comeback as it was for Spithill and his mates, it was a staggering loss for Team New Zealand. Barker, 41, was looking for redemption after losing the America's Cup to Alinghi of Switzerland in 2003 and then steering the losing boat in 2007, also against Alinghi.

Team New Zealand was funded in part by its government.

This was the first time the America's Cup was raced inshore and San Francisco Bay provided a breathtaking racecourse.

The catamarans were the vision of Ellison and his sailing team CEO, Russell Coutts, who is now a five-time America's Cup winner.

Powered by a 131-foot wing sail, the cats have hit 50 mph, faster than the speed limit on the Golden Gate Bridge.

After Artemis Racing's Andrew "Bart" Simpson was killed in a capsize on May 9, sailors began wearing body armor, knives, an air tank and breathing tube, self-lowering equipment and underwater locator devices.

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cojef wrote:
The owner Larry Ellison was scheduled to make the introduction of a new product line for Oracle, but chose to witness his team win the America's Cup race. In this case it, "pleasure before busines", which one can afford, once you've made it.
on September 25,2013 | 11:43AM
loquaciousone wrote:
How many ships qualified for this class? I think it was two in the entire world.
on September 25,2013 | 12:08PM
jtamura69 wrote:
It's too bad the America's Cup has come to this. Using catamarans instead of mono hull yachts, but I guess progress beats out prestige.
on September 25,2013 | 12:28PM
hanalei395 wrote:
For the America's Cup, mono hull crafts are out. The old is new again. While Europeans still thought that the Earth was flat, the greatest seafarers the world has ever known were sailing twin hull vessels all over the Pacific.
on September 25,2013 | 01:04PM
loquaciousone wrote:
You mean the earth is not flat?
on September 25,2013 | 01:48PM
hanalei395 wrote:
Drink your beer before it gets flat.
on September 25,2013 | 02:06PM
primowarrior wrote:
Wow! I stopped following this last week and forgot all about it thinking that it was all but over. Congratulations to Team USA for a huge comeback victory.
on September 25,2013 | 01:23PM
kuroiwaj wrote:
Hey Primowarrior, I did the same until a few days ago when Oracle was two away. The first races Oracle was getting whipped and I thought it was going to be a quick one. Congratulations to an outstanding Capt. and Crew.
on September 25,2013 | 04:58PM
eagleHI wrote:
Way to Go, Larry Ellison and The Americaʻs Cup "Team" -- Required placing The Best of The Best available Captains & Crew and Gutting it OUT Continually On the Edge Facing Defeat with Any One Major Mistake, All the Way to Victory -- Absolutely Outstanding... REQUEST: (Prayer) -- Now Please Extend That Oracle, Americaʻs Cup, Lanai Wnning Formula and Support through to "All of Hawaiʻi" National/World-Class Competition through UH... (In Advance, should you so choose to invest 1/2 or 1%, MAHALO...)
on September 26,2013 | 02:12AM
Anonymous wrote:
Ellison is a jerk, plain and simply. He made this America's Cup a high-priced technological affair that only a few sailing franchises in the world good even contemplate affording. New Zealand had to be subsidized by its government just to play. Ellison hired an all-star cast of international mercenaries, including 6 Aussies and 7 Kiwis and a Brit ... with just 1 American ... as his crew. Team USA? What a joke. Now watch him turn Lanai into the world's largest wind turbine .... awesome.
on September 26,2013 | 04:54AM
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