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America’s Cup Comeback!

September 26th, 2013

Oracle Team USA celebrating their 2013 America's Cup win. Photo credit:©ACEA/Gilles Martin-Raget

What a comeback! The America’s Cup — considered the biggest and most prestigious international yacht race — was won yesterday by Oracle Team USA, but only after an EPIC comeback that some today are calling the greatest sports comeback in history.

Oracle Team USA was one race away from losing to Emirates Team New Zealand … but Oracle Team USA won their next EIGHT races in a row to win. They won 7 races in a row to tie it at 8-8 and then it came down to one exciting last race, winner take all. The odds were definitely stacked against them, but they did it!

What’s the America’s Cup?

Some compare it to an Indianapolis 500 car race. On water. Without brakes.

The best sailors in the world compete in a series of races. In modern times, the boats, and their teams, are practically flying over the water at over 50-miles an hour (they don’t have motors!). These aren’t your average pleasure cruisers. These boats are super hi-tech and are so expensive that not too many teams can afford to enter. Oracle Team USA is funded by millionaire Larry Ellison.

Those who do enter are competing for the oldest trophy in sports. The America’s Cup dates back to 1851, and is actually named after an American boat named “America”, not the country. “America” traveled to England and won a big race there. Its champions donated their winner’s cup to the New York Yacht Club to become “a perpetual challenge cup for friendly competition between nations.”  The competition is intense, though. And only four countries have ever won the cup — the U.S., New Zealand, Australia, and Switzerland.

Though the competition has been around for 162 years, this was the 34th America’s Cup.  It’s not a regularly scheduled event. It takes time to assemble boats and teams. The next one will likely be in a couple of years.

The most basic rules and format for the America’s Cup are that if you win the cup, you get to pick the location for the next competition, as well as set many of the rules. Other teams challenge you. But all the challengers have to race against each other first and only the winner there gets to compete against the defending champion. Oracle Team USA was the defending champion and chose scenic San Francisco Bay to race in.

That was exciting for racers and spectators alike, since the race normally takes place farther out in the water and can only be seen on TV or from a boat. Now, for the first time, people could practically feel the spray in their face.

What was the secret to the Americans coming back like that?

They kept figuring out what they needed to do to keep getting faster. And communication and team work can put a lot of wind in your sail, literally.

A big thank you to John Rousmaniere, an America’s Cup historian and writer, for consulting on this piece.

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