America's Cup: How Ben Ainslie led Oracle Team USA to remarkable 9-8 victory over Emirates Team New Zealand

 

San Francisco

Fast boats win races and Oracle Team USA won the America's Cup in one of the most remarkable comebacks in any game. From 1-8 down in the second half they beat Emirates Team New Zealand on San Francisco Bay by 9-8 and that was after they had had to clear a two-point penalty deficit.

It should have been a best of 17 in the 34th America's Cup but Oracle had to win 11 races to retain the cup they so brutally snatched from Swiss holder Ernesto Bertarelli in Valencia in 2010.

Britain's Olympic four-time gold medallist, the recently knighted Sir Ben Ainslie, became the caped crusader who flew to the rescue of a campaign heading for the beach. From struggling to match the New Zealanders' 72-foot wing-powered catamaran, and on the brink at 1-8 down in a first to nine wins series, the American Eagle swooped on the nocturnal kiwi and rendered it flightless.

If you wanted a gang of streetfighters on your side, the trio of Australian skipper Jimmy Spithill, tactician Ainslie and another Australian, strategist Tom Slingsby, would do very nicely. The well brought up and beautifully behaved duo of skipper Dean Barker and tactician Ray Davies on ETNZ increasingly looked like rabbits in the headlights as Ainslie – with Slingsby playing an equally important and matching role – shattered the hopes of the whole New Zealand nation.

“It was a fantastic race - we wouldn't have it any other way,” Spithill said after only the third winner-takes-all final in the event.

“We came from behind, the guys showed so much heart. On your own you're nothing, but a team like this can make you look great. We were facing the barrel of a gun at 8-1 and the guys didn't even flinch.”

“We knew we had a fight on our hands,” ETNZ's Barker said. “It's really frustrating. The gains that they made were just phenomenal. They did just an amazing job of sorting out their boat. It's a good thing for us they didn't do it earlier. I am incredibly proud of our team and what we achieved. But we didn't get that last one we needed to take the cup back to New Zealand. It's just very hard to swallow.”

On a winner takes all day, Barker at last managed to control the start, Spithill managed to bump his boat off the kerb at the first bend, and Barker had control of the second leg downwind. But not by much and once again, on the third leg, which had been Oracle's early nemesis, Spithill powered past New Zealand and, barring a catastrophe, it was all over for the challengers.

“Boatspeed is a tactician's best friend,” said commentator Kenny Read, and so it proved.

When the final started early in September, incredibly, the defender, despite having structured the competition and with 2010 experience of wing power under its belt, plus a more than adequate budget, was not sufficiently prepared. Long nights and scathing self-examination led to changes every night in the search for speed to give to Ainslie as he came off the bench to replace the starting tactician, John Kostecki.

Whether Kostecki would also have looked as famous given the faster boat will never be known. He had been one of only two Americans in the crew, though Slingsby has dual nationality, and that left Rome Kirby as the only one who sings the US national anthem.

Four times the west coast of the United States has hosted an America's Cup final. Three times New Zealand has been the challenger finalist, but the only one to succeed is now the boss of Oracle, Sir Russell Coutts. He is likely to take a little time to consider where the cup goes now, in consultation with his boss, Larry Ellison. This was the 30th time the United States has either retained or won it as the America's Cup in 34 outings. It was also 30 years minus one day on since they first lost it on 26 September 1983 in Newport.  

Grant Dalton, Dean Barker and their black-clad Argonauts are leaving not just their hearts but the holy grail of the America's Cup in San Francisco. They can be proud of the contribution they made to a fairy tale script.

“To Oracle, amazing. We thought a couple of weeks ago that it was sort of in our favour, and the way they improved and turned things around is just incredible. It was unbelievable,” Barker said.

Whether they can summon not just the sinew but the dollars to come back again remains to be seen and will depend on how the next event, AC35, is structured. And the mood of the New Zealand government, which, under present prime minister John Key's predecessor Helen Clark, had contributed NZ$36m. to bringing back a trophy which generated jobs, tourism, and the wholesale redevelopment of the Viaduct Basin area of Auckland. 

The Californians had been promised a summer of sailing. It turned out, in terms of bangs for the buck, to be 19 days of early autumn sailing, but, despite the early programme becoming disjointed and losing pace, there were some firecrackers among those 19 revolutionary days for the event in particular and sailing as a television sport.

The regatta has changed radically since a depleted challenger elimination series, the Louis Vuitton Cup, started in July. One of the three challengers, Sweden’s Artemis, was crippled anyway and then crippled again by the death of British Olympic gold medallist, Andrew Simpson.

A second, Italy’s Luna Rossa, was no match for Emirates Team New Zealand, the runaway winner of the Louis Vuitton Cup and with it the sole right to match up against the defender, Oracle Team USA. But other things fell into place. Not least the television feed. Led by two Kiwis, Denis Harvey and John Cameron, America’s Cup Television showed what these boats are about. It is not that they are catamarans, nor even that they are powered by a 130-foot wing. It was the way they accelerated, lifted out of the water and rode on foil stilts, skimming across the water at high speed. Great pictures. Great legacy.

The work of two Americans, Stan Honey and Ken Milne, overlays the track with graphics – some a development of work done for both gridiron football and Nascar racing - that tell the story of what is going on and helped their Liveline system win an Emmy. The whole production was nominated for an Emmy, and the coverage of the warm-up 45-foot series made the team a finalist in the 2012 Royal Television Awards.

Whoever eventually won, that genie of foiling and breakthrough television coverage is out of the bottle. The foil factor can be achieved with boats that are a lot cheaper to design and build, and it would be impossible to throw that audience gasp factor into the trash can. The whole team, including helicopter pilots and chase boat drivers, adds up to 92 and the kit is expensive to buy and to run, but it is an outstanding legacy – a major part of which is the people - of the event. Eat your heart out, Sepp Blatter. FIFA should at least have sent some observers.

During all of that there have been several races going on. One was on the San Francisco Bay track. One was in the design offices. The third is the management game, without which no America’s Cup team will be successful. Both teams were in the lead in all three at one time or another but the Americans were in the lead when it mattered, at the finish.

 Then there was the psychological game, Spithill sneering that Barker had a privileged upbringing and taunting him by saying: “He’s never beaten me.” Oracle developed the momentum and had the budget to back it. ETNZ seemed to have few extra shots in the locker, despite saying, without a lot of conviction, that it, too, was developing every night. If they were, Oracle still managed to make it look as if they were standing still.

 

 

Get Adobe Flash player
Arts & Entertainment
Shaun Evans as Endeavour interviews a prisoner as he tries to get to the bottom of a police cover up
tvReview: Second series comes to close with startling tale of police corruption and child abuse
Arts & Entertainment
A stranger calls: Martin Freeman in ‘Fargo’
Review: New 10-part series brims with characters and stories

Arts & Entertainment
Schwarzenegger winning Mr. Universe 1969
arts + entsCan you guess the celebrity from these British Pathe News clips?
Sport
Raheem Sterling and Luis Suarez celebrate during Liverpool's game with Norwich
football Another hurdle is out of the way for Brendan Rodgers' side
VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Arts & Entertainment
The star of the sitcom ‘Miranda’ is hugely popular with mainstream audiences
TVMiranda Hart lined up for ‘Generation Game’ revival
News
Portrait of Queen Elizabeth-II by David Bailey which has been released to mark her 88th birthday
peoplePortrait released to mark monarch's 88th birthday
Life & Style
The writer, Gerda Saunders, with her mother, who also suffered with dementia before her death
healthGerda Saunders on the most formidable effect of her dementia
Sport
Manchester United manager David Moyes looks on during his side's defeat to Everton
footballBaines and Mirallas score against United as Everton keep alive hopes of a top-four finish
Sport
Tour de France 2014Sir Rodney Walker on organising the UK stages of this year’s race
Arts & Entertainment
Jessica Brown Findlay as Mary Yellan in ‘Jamaica Inn’
TVJessica Brown Findlay on playing the spirited heroine of Jamaica Inn
News
YouTube clocks up more than a billion users a month
mediaEuropean rival Dailymotion certainly thinks so
Arts & Entertainment
The original design with Charles' face clearly visible, which is on display around the capital
arts + ents The ad shows Prince Charles attired for his coronation in a crown and fur mantle with his mouth covered by a criss-cross of white duct tape
Arts & Entertainment
‘Self-Portrait Worshipping Christ’ (c943-57) by St Dunstan
books How British artists perfected the art of the self-portrait
Sport
Luis Suarez celebrates after scoring in Liverpool's 3-2 win over Norwich
Football Vine shows Suarez writhing in pain before launching counter attack
News
People White House officials refuse to make comment on 275,000 signatures that want Justin Bieber's US visa revoked
News
Sir Cliff Richard is to release his hundredth album at age 72
PEOPLE
Sport
Lukas Podolski celebrates one of his two goals in Arsenal's win over Hull
football
Arts & Entertainment
Quentin Tarantino, director
film
News
The speeding train nearly hit this US politican during a lecture on rail safety
news As the saying goes, you have to practice what you preach
Sport
Mercedes Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton of Britain (front) drives ahead of Red Bull Formula One driver Daniel Ricciardo of Australia during the Chinese F1 Grand Prix at the Shanghai International circuit
sport
Arts & Entertainment
Billie Jean King, who won the women’s Wimbledon title in 1967, when the first colour pictures were broadcast
tv
News
Snow has no plans to step back or reduce his workload
mediaIt's 25 years since Jon Snow first presented Channel 4 News, and his drive shows no sign of diminishing
Life & Style
food + drinkWhat’s not to like?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

Cannes Film Festival

Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

The concept album makes surprise top ten return

Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
10 best baking books

10 best baking books

Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

Jury still out on Pellegrini

Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players
Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

The all-rounder has been hailed as future star after Ashes debut but incident in Caribbean added to doubts about discipline. Jon Culley meets a man looking to control his emotions
Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

The most prize money ever at an All-Weather race day is up for grabs at Lingfield on Friday, and the record-breaking trainer tells Jon Freeman how times have changed
Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

Mad Men returns for a final fling

The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit