26 Sep 2013

Oracle claims America's Cup comeback victory

10:17 pm on 26 September 2013

Oracle Team USA has performed one of the greatest comebacks in sporting history to win the America's Cup.

Down 8-1 with Emirates Team New Zealand poised on match point, Oracle won the last eight races of the regatta to retain the Auld Mug.

In Thursday's "winner takes all" final race, both boats crossed the start line together, but Team New Zealand led around the first mark by seven seconds.

Aotearoa maintained a slight lead over the first downwind leg, but only rounded the second mark three seconds ahead.

Upwind, the lead changed as Oracle again showed superior speed sailing into the wind.

By the third gate Oracle had built an insurmountable 26 second lead and Team New Zealand could only watch as the quicker boat streaked away.

Team USA crossed the finish line on San Francisco Bay 44 seconds clear of the New Zealanders.

Team New Zealand skipper Dean Barker says he first felt the America's Cup was slipping away from his crew on Wednesday and in the end they were beaten by a faster boat.

Team New Zealand technical director Nick Holroyd says the New Zealanders were never able to seize opportunities with the weather over the last week.

He told Nine to Noon the team started well in the sudden-death final race under huge pressure, but could not deliver more.

Mr Holroyd says the racing has been an enormous mental and physical test for the team.

Former Team New Zealand sailor and sail designer Tom Schnackenberg says a number of changes made by Oracle over the course of the regatta meant the Americans were almost impossible to beat.

Oracle syndicate chief executive Sir Russell Coutts is rejecting any suggestion that big last minute changes and a lot more money saved the day for Oracle when they were losing 8-1 to Team New Zealand.

He says races are won where teams make better use of time and make smarter decisions.

Challenger to be revealed

Oracle's billionaire owner Larry Ellison says there is already a challenger of record for the next regatta but whether Team New Zealand will be there is unclear.

Ellison says he will reveal the challenger soon and discussions will now begin over the format and location, with Ellison enthusiastic about retaining the high-speed catamaran format.

He says he also wants more teams involved and acknowledges the costs need to come down if that's to happen

Whether Team New Zealand and syndicate boss Grant Dalton will be involved is unknown.

Dalton says he's unsure what the future holds and it's too raw at this stage to consider whether he will be involved in another America's Cup challenge.

But he remains opposed to the AC 72 catamarans being raced due to the cost.

Fans disappointed

A raucous crowd of about 1000 people gathered at Auckland's Shed 10 for the final race.

About 600 of them performed a haka in support of Team New Zealand as the race got underway.

There were continuous shouts and cheers of support for the New Zealanders and the fans gave a standing ovation at the end of the race.

About 200 supporters at the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron in Auckland also gave Team New Zealand a standing ovation as the boat crossed the line behind Oracle.

Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron Vice Commodore Andy Anderson says the regatta has been a fantastic spectacle, despite Team New Zealand losing.

New Zealand did not have the legs in the end, and Oracle was the better team, he says. Despite the loss, the Government has had a great return on its investment.

But raising the money for another challenge will be a big task, Mr Anderson says.

"Will they be back next time? Who knows? We'd certainly love to be in there for another challenge, we'd love the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron to be challenging again but there's a lot of water to go under the bridge, as they say," Mr Anderson says.

Public support

About 200 fans packed Wellington's Port Nicholson Yacht Club and chief executive Dean Stanley says he has been blown away by the way the public got behind the regatta.

He says bookings for the yacht club's learn to sail programme have gone through the roof.

Auckland mayor Len Brown says plans are in the works to give Team New Zealand a warm welcome home.

Prime Minister John Key says the loss is gut-wrenching but there will be a lot of pride in New Zealand about the way the team has conducted itself.

Mr Key says he is personally very proud of Team New Zealand.

The TAB says it took in more than $1 million in bets on the America's Cup. Several $10,000 bets were made on Oracle, along with a $14,000 bet. There were two big losing bets of $16,000 on Team New Zealand.