It seemed like a long shot, and it was. On Wednesday afternoon Oracle Team USA showed up at San Francisco Bay facing a seemingly insurmountable deficit of 8-1 against Emirates Team New Zealand. Though Oracle Team USA were the defending champs, they did not seem likely to repeat their victory from three years ago. Throughout most of the race, New Zealand fans were exuberant as they watched what seemed like a sure win for their team...but it was not to be. The Americans gave an incredible performance to retain the cup. "It was a fantastic race," said Oracle skipper Jimmy Spithill. "We wouldn't have had it any other way, coming from behind." The crowd along the waterfront roared as the American team stormed past the finish line with a commanding 45 second lead. Final score 9-8 in favor of Oracle Team USA - they had to win 8 consecutive races to keep the cup.
This epic showdown was a much welcomed boost for the image of the sport, given the recent string of bad press. British Olympic sailing champion Andrew Simpson's untimely death during a training accident, as well as the rampant accusations of spying and favoritism within the sport have struck a nasty blow to its image. Only days before the Cup Finals began, Oracle Team USA were found guilty of cheating. It was discovered that several members of the team had unfairly weighted their 45-foot catamaran. The weight increased the performance to the catamaran, giving them an unfair advantage during competition. Though the act was done without the rest of the team knowing, the entire team was penalized with a 2- race- penalty, a $250, 000 fine, the expulsion of three crew members and the suspension of one. This marked the most severe penalty in the races 162 year history. Team CEO, Russell Coutts believed the decision was "grossly unfair".
On Wednesday, however, Oracle Team USA managed to redeem themselves in EPIC fashion. This year's final race of the The America's Cup is one that many people are describing as one of the most spectacular comebacks in sporting history. It was indeed epic to the very end. The hope for many of the sport's participants is that the excitement of Wednesday's epic final will create greater interest and new fans.
(video from youtube.com)