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Let’s Get Ready to Rumble!

Emirates Team New Zealand’s Dean Barker and Oracle Team USA’s Jimmy Spithill are ready to go head-to-head on Saturday.

© Gilles Martin-Raget / ACEA

The much anticipated — and much villified — 34th America’s Cup, matching Larry Ellison’s defending Oracle Team USA against challenger Emirates Team New Zealand in AC72s for the oldest trophy in sports history, starts tomorrow at 1:15 p.m. on the San Francisco Bay Nautical Octogon. The Cup finals offer one last shot at redemption for an event that has regrettably fallen far short of expectations in almost every respect except for the AC45 fleet racing. That said, the anticipation for the first race of the best of 17 — or will it be 19? — Cup races seems to have built dramatically over the past few weeks. Big crowds are expected for at least the first race of what will be the biggest sailing event on San Francisco Bay since the fabled 1987 St. Francis YC Big Boat Series.

Most bookies have made ETNZ the big favorite. We wouldn’t be so sure. Remember that Oracle’s 90-ft trimaran was the perceived underdog against the 90-ft Alinghi catamaran in the 33rd America’s Cup that was held in Valencia in 2010. But Spithill and crew confounded the experts by comfortably winning both races in the litigiously shrouded event. We’ve got a feeling Spithill, aided by Bay Area navigator John Kosteki, and the rest of the Oracle crew can do it again. We’re not the only ones. Having just returned from a circumnavigation aboard his 49-ft Schionning catamaran Sea Level, Jim Milski, is picking Oracle. "I’ve watched them and I don’t think the Kiwi boat is anywhere near as stable. I think Oracle will win."

It’s not often that a team finds itself trailing in a sporting event before the competition has even begun. It happened to a University of California at Santa Barbara basketball team in the early ’90s, when it was assessed a series of technical fouls before the start of the game because their fans refused to stop flipping thousands of tortillas onto the court. The famous ‘Tortilla Technicals’ incident. Now Oracle, thanks to the ruling of the International Jury with regard to their AC45 World Series shenanigans, starts the competition trailing -2 points to New Zealand’s 0. While the Kiwis can take the Cup back to New Zealand by taking 9 races, Oracle will need to win 11 times to retain it. Which means it’s entirely possible this Cup could be a 19-race enduro.

Oh, it’s on!

© Gilles Martin-Raget / ACEA

One curious but very real possibility is that the slower cat with the less-skilled crew will emerge victorious. Every sailor knows the truth of the adage, ‘You can’t win unless you finish.’ In what could be as many as 19 hard-fought races between two teams that don’t care for each other, it’s quite possible that the winner will be the last boat standing — even if they had been trailing 0-10 when their opponent’s boat mortally broke down. Since the immensely powerful but also fragile AC72s will be the weapons, this Cup is not going to be over until the fat lady sings.

We plan to observe the racing as part of the throng in the America’s Cup village. We hope to see you there!

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So which team do you think will win the 34th America’s Cup? Write your prediction — including the final score — on a copy of today’s paper (yes, they still exist!)
As we look ahead to the start of America’s Cup 34 on Saturday, which will, of course, be raced in the most revolutionary multihulls ever seen on a Cup course, we pay tribute to one of the legendary innovators of the modern multihull movement: Dick Newick passed away on August 28.