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On The Bay: October 3, 2013

USA Wins America’s Cup in Dramatic Fashion

Oracle Team USA has won the 34th America’s Cup in a winner-take-all 19th race, defeating challenger Emirates Team New Zealand by 44 seconds and the America’s Cup stays in the United States.

In an event that no one could predict, Jimmy Spithill and his team came from behind 8-1 to beat the Emirates New Zealand, 9-8. In the longest America’s Cup ever, which is saying a lot as the event began back in 1891, the American dug in, and under the leadership of Spithill “a never say die” kind of leader, infused this team with confidence and the will to win.

Each evening when the Kiwis won another race and when they finally were at match point in the “first to 9 wins,” some people questioned the sanity of Spithill when he continued to predict a USA victory. Now all those naysayers are a bit subdued but ecstatic that the Cup remains in the USA.  

No one – and we mean from the top racers around the world, the expert commentators out in San Francisco to the average weekend racer – would have believed the Spithill and his team would hold high the Cup in victory after 19 races. In fact, two weeks ago it looked like the Kiwis would take the Cup down under, and this column commented, “But with the Kiwis better boat speed and control on the upwind leg of the racecourse, and already leading with six wins, it will take almost a miracle for the USA to keep the Cup,” Who knew?  

A quick recap of highlights is in order – especially for those who didn’t have the time or were at work when NBC Sports Network aired the races.  Note to readers:  Because of the size, speed and danger posed by the AC72 boats, there is an upper wind amount that if reached automatically cancels racing.  Also there is a TLE (time limit exceeded) rule that each race must be completed in 40 minutes. This is to preserve the integrity of a win in very light air as neither team wants fluky winds to determine a win. Also, Oracle Team USA started the event with a score of -2 for infractions before the start.  Keeping this in mind, the highlights:

By day three, the Kiwis had won Race Five and were on a roll and the defender, Oracle Team USA, used their one “postponement card” to postpone the second race of the day and regroup. The next day, tactician John Kostecki was replaced with Ben Ainslie and the boat had some modifications done by the land crew.  They still lost races 6 and 7. Score: USA -1, NZL 6.

Race Eight could be called the turning point. The Kiwis were clearly in control on the upwind leg, but a near capsize while tacking allowed Oracle to win. Race Nine the Kiwis were leading but the race was abandoned