Skipper Jimmy Spithill and Oracle Team USA won the America's Cup on Wednesday with one of the greatest comebacks in sports history.
Spithill steered Oracle's space-age, 72-foot catamaran to its eighth straight victory, speeding past Dean Barker and Emirates Team New Zealand in the winner-take-all Race 19 on San Francisco Bay to keep the oldest trophy in international sports in the United States.
All but defeated a week ago, the 34-year-old Australian and his international crew twice rallied from seven-point deficits to win 9-8. Owned by software billionaire Larry Ellison, Oracle Team USA was docked two points for illegally modifying boats in warmup regattas and had to win 11 races to keep the Auld Mug.
After almost dunking its chances when it buried its bows in a wave shortly after the start, Oracle showed its incredible speed when it reeled in the Kiwis while zigzagging toward the Golden Gate Bridge on the windward third leg.
As Oracle worked to keep its lead, tactician Ben Ainslie, a four-time Olympic gold medalist from Britain, implored his mates by saying, "This is it. This is it. Working your (rears) off."
There were hugs and handshakes after Spithill steered the fast cat across the finish line off America's Cup Park on Piers 27-29. Ellison hopped on board and the crew sprayed him with champagne.
Spithill refused to let his team fold after the penalties were announced four days before racing started and led an almost unimaginable rally.
How big a win was this?
In sailing terms, it was the equivalent of the Boston Red Sox sweeping the final four games of the 2004 ALCS over the New York Yankees, the only 3-0 comeback in major league history. It's also comparable to the Philadelphia Flyers overcoming a 0-3 deficit to beat the Boston Bruins in the 2010 NHL playoffs.
There have been only two other neck-and-neck races in the 162-year history of the America's Cup, in 1920 and 1983, according to race officials.
An awards ceremony was planned at America's Cup Park Wednesday afternoon, with San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee and former mayor and current Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom expected to attend, CBS San Francisco reported.