Oracle Team USA fought off an early mishap today in the San Francisco Bay to complete what’s described as the one of the greatest comebacks in sports history by retaining the America's Cup, the oldest trophy in sports.
Just a week ago, Emirates Team New Zealand had what appeared to be an insurmountable 8-1 lead. But like a sleeping giant, Team Oracle USA awoke as they were on the brink of elimination, with the Kiwis just needing one win of the final eight races to reclaim the America's Cup whose first yacht race was held in 1851.
But the American team, led by Skipper Jimmy Spithill and funded by billionaire Oracle CEO Larry Ellison, reeled off eight consecutive victories to win the series 9-8. In today’s winner take all finale, Emirates Team New Zealand capitalized on an error by the Americans at the race start to pull out an early lead approaching the second mark. Yet even as the Kiwis were leading early on, Oracle Team USA’s space age 72-foot carbon fiber catamaran, with its distinctive Oracle mainsail, began slicing the lead, eventually pulling out to a commanding lead rounding the third mark. By the time the Americans passed the fifth and final leg, there was no question who would emerge as the victor.
As the Americans neared Pier 29 with a 44 second lead, the massive crowd erupted in cheers, as they crossed the finish line, not far from the city’s famous Fisherman’s Wharf. While it was an incredibly sweet victory for the more than 25,000 people in attendance, it was a stunning defeat for Skipper Dean Barker’s Emirates Team New Zealand and quite possibly all of New Zealand itself. After the race, despite being clearly despondent for missing his team’s final chance at regaining the America’s Cup the Kiwis last held 10 years ago, Barker was exceptionally graceful in accepting defeat and acknowledged Oracle Team USA’s superiority in the final days of the series.
Leading up to the 34th America’s Cup, the event was filled with criticism, citing exorbitant costs and a lack of crowds at both major venues – America’s Cup Village and America’s Cup Park. Yet as Oracle Team USA began its thrilling comeback with win after win, the crowds envisioned by Lt. Governor Gavin Newsome and Mayor Ed Lee finally materialized to cap what will now be considered a monumental economic success for the City of San Francisco.
Now that the cup, whose history stretches back 162 years, stays with Larry Ellison and Oracle Team USA, there’s already speculation the 35th America’s Cup will return to San Francisco. In the meantime, Ellison, Jimmy Spithill and the rest of Oracle Team USA can rejoice with today’s memorable victory.