News / USA

In Epic Comeback, Oracle Wins America's Cup

Oracle Team USA crosses the finish line during the 18th race of the America's Cup sailing event against Emirates Team New Zealand, Sept. 24, 2013, in San Francisco.
Oracle Team USA crosses the finish line during the 18th race of the America's Cup sailing event against Emirates Team New Zealand, Sept. 24, 2013, in San Francisco.
Reuters
Oracle Team USA prevailed in a dramatic winner-take-all showdown with Emirates Team New Zealand on Wednesday to win the 34th America's Cup, completing a stirring comeback that helped make the once-troubled event among the most exciting in sailing history.
 
For Oracle and its hard-charging skipper, Australian Jimmy Spithill, the win was an extraordinary sporting triumph, one that saw the team climb back from a seemingly insurmountable 8-1 deficit in the best-of-17 series to keep the trophy it won three years ago.
 
The thrilling final races were also a ringing vindication of Oracle owner Larry Ellison's controversial decision to transform a once-staid yachting event into a TV-friendly, extreme-sports spectacle featuring huge high-speed catamarans that might draw a new generation of enthusiasts to sailing.
 
Emirates Team New Zealand, a plucky challenger that lacked a billionaire sponsor but nonetheless sailed to the brink of Cup victory, must now endure the ignominy of having let the prize slip from its grasp after a grueling two-year campaign of boat development and training that unfolded almost exactly as planned until the final days.
 
Oracle dominated the last race, showcasing the dramatic  improvement in boat speed on the upwind leg of the race that began to emerge a week ago. Oracle seemed to find an extra gear after losing most of the early races, and even overcame a pre-match penalty that required it win 11 races on the water.
 
“On your own you're nothing, but with a team like this around you, they can make you look great,” Spithill said after the race.
 
Just a week ago, New Zealand fans had all but begun celebrating what seemed like an inevitable sporting and economic windfall for the longtime international sailing power, which supported the team with about $30 million in government funds in the hopes of bringing the trophy - and attendant tourism and publicity - back home.
 
But on Wednesday it was Ellison who was celebrating, joining the crew on the boat for a champagne shower in the moments after the finish.
 
Gripping spectacle
 
Fans who flocked to the San Francisco bayfront by the tens of thousands for the final races were treated to a little bit of everything: tense on-the-water duels, a near-capsize, winds that were alternately too light and too strong, and even a whale that threatened to disrupt racing.
 
Until just a few weeks ago, the summer-long series of America's Cup events looked like a monumental bust. A British Olympic champion sailing for the Swedish team was killed in a training accident in May, calling the safety of the boats into question and forcing contentious rule changes.
 
New Zealand completely dominated the Louis Vuitton challenger series, which featured only three competitors and saw some “races” with only one boat charging around the course. A cheating scandal erupted, with Oracle ultimately being docked two races and losing a key crew member as punishment for illegal boat modifications in a preliminary series.
 
In San Francisco, many locals bristled at city support for what has often been derided as a rich man's yacht race.
 
Controversies aside, Oracle seemed to have a competitive  edge early on, with the home-team advantage and enough money to hire top sailors and build two equally matched boats to train against one another. Its team was distinctly international, with New Zealander Russel Coutts, who led the Kiwis to Cup victory in 1995 and 2000, serving as CEO and Spithill as the skipper.
 
Only one American was among the Oracle crew at the finish.
 
When only three challengers proved willing to take on the cost and complexity of the 72-foot carbon fiber yachts, Oracle's chances looked even better - though it faced criticism that the dearth of competitors had made hosting the event a bad financial deal for San Francisco.
 
 
But the New Zealenders, led by a 56-year-old managing director, Grant Dalton, who doubled as a workhorse on-board “grinder” during races, proved ingenious in developing their boat, particularly in pioneering the use of hydrofoils that lift both hulls almost entirely of the water to reduce drag.
 
Skipper Dean Barker steered nearly flawless races through most of the competition as New Zealand first crushed the Italian team, Luna Rossa, in the challenger series, and then dominated Oracle in the early races of the Cup finals.
 
But now the America's Cup, with its rich history of dueling tycoons, gamesmanship and cutting-edge boat technology, appears firmly headed in Ellison's innovative direction. Not since Australia ended the United States' 132-year-long grip on the oldest trophy in sports in 1983 has the competition taken such a sharp turn.

You May Like

Turkey's Controversial Reform Bill Giving Investors Jitters

Homeland security reform bill will give police new powers in search, seizure, detention and arrests, while restricting the rights of suspects, their attorneys More

Audio Slideshow In Kenyan Prison, Good Grades Are Path to Freedom

Some inmates who get high marks could see their sentences commuted to non-custodial status More

'Rumble in the Jungle' Turns 40

'The Champ' knocked Foreman out to regain crown he had lost 7 years earlier when US government accused him of draft-dodging and boxing officials revoked his license More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Victorious Secularists Face Challenge to Form Government in Tunisiai
X
Henry Ridgwell
October 30, 2014 11:39 PM
Official results from Tunisia show the Islamist Ennahda party has failed to win the second free election since the so-called "Arab Spring" uprising in 2011. Ennahda, which handed power to a government of technocrats pending the elections, lost out to the secular party Nidaa Tounes. Henry Ridgwell reports from London that the relatively peaceful poll offers some hope in a volatile region.
Video

Video Victorious Secularists Face Challenge to Form Government in Tunisia

Official results from Tunisia show the Islamist Ennahda party has failed to win the second free election since the so-called "Arab Spring" uprising in 2011. Ennahda, which handed power to a government of technocrats pending the elections, lost out to the secular party Nidaa Tounes. Henry Ridgwell reports from London that the relatively peaceful poll offers some hope in a volatile region.
Video

Video Africa Tells its Story Through Fashion

In Africa, Fashion Week is a riot of colors, shapes, patterns and fabrics - against the backdrop of its ongoing struggle between nature and its fast-growing urban edge. How do these ideas translate into needle and thread? VOA’s Anita Powell visited this year’s Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Africa in Johannesburg to find out.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.

All About America

AppleAndroid