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Lots to learn from Oracle's gutsy finish in 2013 America's Cup

Down 8 - 1, Team USA came back to win eight straight races and the America's Cup
Down 8 - 1, Team USA came back to win eight straight races and the America's Cup
photo by christopher michel via

The gutsy comeback of Team USA to win the America's Cup sailing race on September 26 after being down 8 - 1 provides a wealth of fascinating learning material for homeschooling families (and anyone else interested, of course). These races have been held every few years in different parts of the world since 1851, making the Cup the oldest international sporting trophy in the world. This year Team USA nearly lost out in their efforts to defend the title, which the United States has held throughout most of the history of the race. However, despite being down 8 - 1, the team refused to give up. After adjustments were made to the boat and to the crew, they went on to win eight races in a row and defeat New Zealand, who only had to win one more race to be declared the winner.

How can homeschoolers use this event to incorporate information and inspiration into their learning path? Here are some of the ideas I had. You can probably think up many more.

  • The Team USA was made up of 11 people who worked together for months to learn about the boat and how to act as a team. Their captain, James, (Jimmy) Spithill, refused to give up, even when the odds looked almost impossible. How does a leader inspire a group, and himself, especially when things look black? How does a team from many different countries learn to work together like clockwork? How can you apply this to yourself and to your family? What great leaders past and present have lead people and nations against overwhelming odds?
  • The first America's Cup races were held in 1852. What were boats and other modes of transportation like then? What was happening in America and the world at that time?
  • San Francisco hosted the Cup races this year. What is the history of this famous "City by the Bay"? What characteristics of San Francisco Bay make it a good harbor and place to race? And, of course, you can always learn about the Bay's great bridges.
  • Going from teamwork to solo sailors, there are races where people sail alone. In 1966, Sir Francis Chichester sailed around the world by himself in 226 days, at age 65! Some have written about their adventures. Do you think you could be alone for that long?
  • This year the boats in the America's Cup races were high-tech catamarans (boats with two hulls) that could reach speeds of over 40 miles per hour. Called the AC-72, these boats revolutionize sailboat racing. How are these boats designed and what is their unique feature called "foiling" that allows them to go even faster than the wind?
  • What other famous sailing races are there? Which is the longest?
  • This year marked the first America's Cup races for young people, the Red Bull Youth America's Cup. Is this something anyone in your family is interested in? How would you need to prepare to participate in these races?
  • Finally, the New Zealand team saw their seemingly insurmountable lead whittled away to nothing. They lost eight consecutive times. Have you ever had to be a good loser? How does one lose gracefully?

As you can see, there are any number of ways that this long-standing event can spark a person's interest. If you can think of more, let me know!

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