SAN FRANCISCO (TheBlaze/AP) — Skipper Jimmy Spithill and Oracle Team USA won the America’s Cup Wednesday in what is being called 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 Wednesday. 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, the nickname of the trophy.
Oracle’s showed its incredible speed when it reeled in the Kiwis while zigzagging toward the Golden Gate Bridge on the windward third leg.
“Every day we had to go out there, we were 8-1 down, every day we were absolutely backs to the wall,” Oracle Team USA tactician Ben Ainslie told Reuters on Thursday. ”It’s amazing what focus that kind of pressure brings. Everyday we went out there knowing we had to nail it and we did.”
“The Kiwis did an amazing job and had an amazing campaign but they maybe stood still a bit through the event whereas we kept pushing to get faster and faster,” he continued. ”We ultimately became the faster boat and more and more dominant as we went through the series.”
Photos of the stunning event show not only the faces of victory but the devastated New Zealand fans:
Check out the footage showing the last moments of the historic race with a statement from the winning team:
So important was the team’s comeback to Ellison that earlier this week he backed out of giving the marquee speech at his software company’s biggest customer conference of the year.
He skipped his scheduled appearance Tuesday afternoon so he could watch Oracle Team USA as it clinched its seventh straight race against Emirates Team New Zealand on the San Francisco Bay.
“It’s been great for the sport, great for the America’s Cup and great for the future of sailing,” Ainslie said of the comeback.
“The number of messages I’ve had from all round the world and especially from home. People have been blown away by the footage of these boats. People who would not have watched sailing before have now taken to it.”
Reuters contributed to this report.