How the Cup was Won

Looking back on how Oracle Team USA staged one of the greatest comebacks in sporting history, it’s hard to be it all happened in only a little over a week. As late as a 11 days into the 18-day regatta, an Emirates Team New Zealand victory was pretty much a forgone conclusion, as they led series by an apparently insurmountable score of 8-1.
Author:
Publish date:
Updated on

Looking back on how Oracle Team USA staged one of the greatest comebacks in sporting history, it’s hard to believe it all happened in only a little over a week. As late as 11 days into the 18-day regatta, an Emirates Team New Zealand victory was pretty much a forgone conclusion, as they led the series by an apparently insurmountable score of 8-1.

Lead-pic-AC34-web-story-600x

It was the same thing over the next few days, as Oracle began winning those same races that would ultimately prove to be start of what was arguably the greatest comeback in all of sports.

The fact that by the last couple of races, the roles had reversed to the point where it was Oracle that couldn’t be beat and the Kiwis who didn’t stand a chance only makes the turn-around all the more incredible.

What follows is a race-by-race chronology of how Oracle turned things around, in what was truly a regatta for the ages.

Day 1 (Saturday, Sept. 7)

2 to -2

Emirates Team New Zealand wins both races, displaying the same dominance it did against Artemis and Luna Rossa. With the exception of a single breakdown when sailing against Luna Rossa in the Louis Vuitton Cup, ETNZ has yet to lose a race all summer. There are those who wonder if they ever will.

Day 2

3 to -1

Although ETNZ loses its first race of the series, the Kiwis still appear firmly in control, with equal or better speed on all points of sail and generally better boat handling.

Day 3

4 to -1

ETNZ easily passes Oracle on the windward leg, after which Oracle plays its sole postponement card to end the day’s racing and regroup.

Day 4 (Thursday, Sept. 12)

6 to -1

Emirates Team New Zealand wins both races, once again showing superior boatspeed to windward. It appears the writing is on the wall.

Day 5

6 to 0

Oracle wins another race after ETNZ nearly capsizes on the beat. The second race is abandoned with the Kiwis in the lead when conditions exceed the mandated wind limit. One bright spot: Oracle has now worked off the two-point penalty it incurred for illegally modifying its AC45s during the World Series.

Day 6 (Sunday, Sept. 15)

7 to 1

ETNZ and Oracle split two races. For the first time Oracle shows a real turn of speed to windward as the two teams battle furiously and the lead goes back and forth all day.

Tuesday, Sept. 17: no racing as a period of nagging postponements begins

Day 8 (Wednesday, Sept. 18)

8 to 1

ETNZ draws within one point of winning the Cup. The second race is postponed as the wind limits are once again exceeded. The general consensus is that the 34th America’s Cup is all but over, as the press corps begins booking flights back home.

Day 9 (Thursday, Sept. 19)

8 to 2

Oracle lives to fight another day, thanks in large part to Jimmy Spithill’s aggressive starting tactics. Second race is postponed.

Day 10

8 to 3

Oracle wins the first race of the day, and then gets the break of its life when the second race is abandoned after the Kiwis fail to finish within the time limit, despite being literally half a mile ahead.

Saturday, Sept. 21: another postponement due to light winds

Day 12

8 to 5

Oracle amazes the pundits by winning both races, though a combination of aggressive starting tactics, and quickly improving boathandling and speed.

Day 13

8 to 6

Oracle leads ETNZ wire-to-wire on its way to another victory. The second race of the day is postponed after a series of delays. The pundits are beginning to speculate about the real possibility of a comeback.

Day 14 (Tuesday, Sept. 24)

8 to 8

Oracle crushes the Kiwis, winning both races. In the first race, Spithill “hooks” ETNZ at the start, putting them two penalties in the hole. Although ETNZ is leading the second race at the leeward mark, Oracle easily sails by them on the third leg, foiling to windward as it does so. The look on ETNZ skipper Dean Barker’s face afterward says all.

Day 15 (Wednesday, Sept. 25)

8 to 9

Oracle’s speed and boathandling have now become such that, incredibly, the race almost seems like a foregone conclusion. Oracle plays it safe, keeping things close until the leeward mark, then turns on the afterburners on the beat. All the Kiwis can do is watch as Oracle crosses the finish line almost a minute ahead. The 34th America’s Cup is over. 

Related

Meridian-X-Spin_2

MOB: A Whistle in the Wind

Mark Wheeler went overboard a few minutes before midnight. He was in the middle of Lake Michigan, 30 miles offshore in 40 knots of wind. As he fumbled for the lanyard to inflate his lifejacket he watched his racing sailboat, Meridian X, disappear into the night at more than 18 ...read more

TOTW_PromoSite

SAIL's Tip of the Week

Presented by Vetus-Maxwell. Got a tip? Send it to sailmail@sailmagazine.com Slapper stopper  When I came on deck at 0800 to hoist my colors on a visitors’ mooring recently, there was an awkward slop running in. This doesn’t trouble my Mason 44, which has a traditional counter ...read more

Tilly-1

Gear: Tilley Polaris Hat

A True Blue Tilley Sailing is all about fun in the sun, but it sometimes doesn’t take long to get too much of a good thing, especially when on a prolonged cruise or offshore passage. Enter the Tilley Polaris, the latest lid developed by iconic Canadian hat-maker Tilley. ...read more

Sand-TOWEL_MODEL-3

CGear Sand-Free Beach Towel

Sand Be Gone! The summer is hot and full of terrors—not the least of which is the sand that sticks in your beach towel in the hopes of a free ride back to your car or boat. Fortunately, there's now the CGear Sand-Free Beach Towel, engineered in polyester to not only dry quickly ...read more

01-Blowup-Tiwal2_sailing-(3)

Gear: Tiwal Inflatable Sailing Dinghy

Blow-up Boating A few years ago, the French company Tiwal arrived on U.S. shores with that most improbable of products, an inflatable sailing dinghy that actually sails the way a boat is supposed to. Now, nearly 1,000 Tiwal 3’s later, the company is back with its Tiwal 2, an ...read more

Koozy

Gear: 22 Below Koozie

Killer Koozie For all that sailors love the warmth of this time of year, that same warmth can also wreak havoc on their otherwise icy-cold beers. (Unless, of course, you drink them very, very fast. But we won’t go there.) To help deal with this terrible hardship, North ...read more

Cool-Specs

Gear: Gill's Race Fusion Sunglasses

Wicked Cool Specs Is there anything in the world of sailing more fun than a cool pair of shades? Heck, no! And it would hard to find a cooler pair than these new Race Fusion specs from longtime weather-gear manufacture Gill. In addition to looking great, they include a number of ...read more

North_new

Gear: North Sails Waterproof Pack

A few years ago, North Sails made a big push into the apparel business with all kinds of sharp-looking button-down shirts, shorts and fleeces. That doesn’t mean, though, that the North Sails Collection isn’t still plenty practical, as is evident in its new roll-over waterproof ...read more