USA has just completed one of the greatest comebacks in sport ever.
Or, depending on which way to want to look at it, New Zealand has just experienced one of the biggest chokes.
It wasn’t that long ago that Oracle Team USA (owned by Oracle CEO Larry Ellison) was down 8-1 in the first-to-nine series. Emirates Team New Zealand, skippered by Dean Barker was headed for one of the most comprehensive wipeouts in the sailing classic’s 162-year history.
This morning, Team Ellison cruised to a 9-8 victory.
The race was never really in doubt. New Zealand got out to a lead at the start line, but Oracle quickly reeled them in and then pulled away.
The lead was 200m during the third leg, and stretched all the way to 700m as they turned for home.
Ellison was criticized before the race for changing the rules and making everyone use an expensive, hard-to-use boat. Thirteen teams initially wanted to challenge Oracle, but all but three teams withdrew before the qualifying competition started.
He also made a few other changes, including:
- Moving the race off the high seas and into the fan-friendly San Francisco Bay
- Shortening the races from the hours-long snoozefests they used to be the quick 25-minute sprints, and
- Changing the format first-to-nine instead of first-to-five.
But it paid off and Ellison will once again make the rules for the 2016 defence.
No doubt Team New Zealand will be feeling the pain right now. Here’s their PM John Key on that:
— John Key (@RtHon_JohnKey) September 25, 2013
They all but had the series in the bag last week when they were 8-2, leading by some margin until stewards abandoned the race due to – of all things – dangerously high wind speeds.
On Friday, they won the first race of the day comfortably, only to be denied an official victory because they took more than the allotted 40 minutes to do it.
Since then, Team USA hired the UK’s champion tactician Ben Ainslie to try and rescue the series. That left just one American in its own team, which also includes four Aussies – skipper James Spithill, 2012 Olympic gold medallist Tom Slingsby, Joey Newton and Kyle Langford.
Here’s the live feed from YouTube:
More to come
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