America's Cup: Epic comeback leads to final showdown
The longest America's Cup in history will come to an end on Wednesday in a face-off between Oracle Team USA and Emirates Team New Zealand. They will vie for the oldest trophy in sports.
Oracle Team USA won two more races against Emirates Team New Zealand to even up the America's Cup finals on Tuesday, continuing an epic comeback in a regatta that once looked like a Kiwi cakewalk and will now be decided by a single winner-take-all showdown.Skip to next paragraph
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The deciding race in what will be the longest America's Cup in its 162-year history is scheduled for Wednesday.
The stunning recovery for the team backed by Oracle co-founder Larry Ellison continued on every front in perfect sailing conditions Tuesday. The U.S. boat came from behind to win the second race easily and has now has seven straight victories, another Cup milestone.
New Zealand dominated that start for the first time in recent races, but then committed several tactical errors and Oracle stormed to a lead of nearly a minute at the finish.
In the first race the reeling Kiwi team drew a double-penalty as the two boats crossed the starting line, which allowed Oracle to jump to an insurmountable lead.
New Zealand once led the competition 8-1, and numerous Kiwi fans in San Francisco and back home in New Zealand were ready to celebrate victory in a grueling two-year-long Cup campaign. The New Zealand government contributed about $30 million to the effort to bring the Cup back to the sailing-crazed nation.
But boat improvements, superior tactics and sharper sailing by Oracle have turned its fortunes around, evidenced in the second race Tuesday when the team appeared to show more speed on every leg of the race.
"We've been doing a lot of work at night with design engineering technicians," Oracle skipper Jimmy Spithill said after the first race. "The boat is just going faster and faster and the boys are really starting to believe."
New Zealand skipper Dean Barker acknowledged in comments after the races that Oracle was now faster on the upwind legs in heavier winds. New Zealand pioneered the so-called "foiling" in which the big boats lift almost completely out of the water and sail on small horizontal wings attached to their daggerboards and rudders, but Oracle is now doing it more effectively on the critical upwind leg.
"It's the first time we've seen conditions where we were not as good as we needed to be," said Barker.