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The Cup Comes Home

The triumphant braintrust from BMW Oracle Racing from left: helmsman James Spithill, team CEO Russell Coutts, team founder Larry Ellison, and Bay Area-product and tactician John Kostecki.

© Gilles Martin-Raget

A 2-0 win in the best-of-three 33rd America’s Cup yesterday means that the Golden Gate YC’s BMW Oracle Racing became the first Bay Area team to successfully challenge for the America’s Cup. With the 4:30 p.m. deadline for a race start looming, and a forecast for days of inclement weather to follow, the breeze finally filled in on the America’s Cup race course in Valencia with just a half-hour to spare. The ISAF-appointed America’s Cup 33 PRO Harold Bennett made the call to start the race. The Société Nautique Genève-appointed race committee had other ideas and went on strike, forcing Bennett to enlist BMW Oracle Racing’s Tom Ehman and a Spanish peace officer assigned to the R/C boat to hoist flags! 

USA says “550-meter deficit halfway up the first beat? Doesn’t matter, we’re still going to round the first mark almost 30 seconds in front of you!”

© 2010 Gilles Martin-Raget

The Alinghi team — which includes a lot of people who should know better — was inexplicably inside the starting box when the sequence started, drawing a penalty right off the bat and ceding its starboard-tack advantage to James Spithill and company before the word ‘go.’ With Ernesto Bertarelli on the helm, the Alinghi team looked like they were in their first — and possibly last — rodeo.

High and Mighty, USA blasts around the race course.

© Gilles Martin-Raget

Alinghi 5 went right up the first beat as USA went left. The white catamaran hooked into a nice right shift and quickly pulled away from USA, amassing what became at one point a 550-meter lead. But USA stayed in touch, protecting the left in the process — in anticipation of a left shift which they got. Tactician John Kostecki and navigator Matteo Plazzi called a dead-nuts port-tack layline and USA was flying toward the mark. The shift had eroded Alinghi 5‘s lead down to 100 meters, and Loïck Peyron — who’d taken over for Bertarelli in the previous tack — couldn’t safely lee-bow USA and was thus forced to cross, then tack for the weather mark. By the time they’d completed their painfully slow tack and made it to the weather mark, Alinghi 5 was 28 seconds behind USA.

Larry Ellison, who sailed aboard USA for the second and final race of the 33rd America’s Cup says, ‘It’s about this big.’

© 2010 Gilles Martin-Raget

From there on out, it was all USA as the black trimaran tore off at speeds in the high-20s in the 6-knot breeze, and led Alinghi 5 by 2,000 meters at the reach mark. In the fading light, USA had stretched out to a lead of over five minutes, thus ending a brutal, but ultimately necessary, chapter in the history of the oldest trophy in sports.

So what’s next? Vincenzo Onorato’s two-time challenging team Mascalzone Latino was named as the Challenger of Record for AC 34, but at this point, that’s about the extent of the news on what course the next Cup will take. Ellison is on record saying that he would like to bring the Cup to the Bay, but that the "City would have to work with us." We feel that if AC 34 was contested on the Bay, it would be a fantastic surprise. We’ll have more on that in the March issue of Latitude 38. In the meantime, we thought we’d share some of the comments from Friday‘s query as to whether or not this Deed of Gift match in multihulls was better than a more traditional Mutual Consent challenge in monohulls.

Tom Perkins: "This is much better — state of the art, no holds barred!"

Eric Southmayd: "Interesting but worse, because these boats may only compete in super-circumscribed wind conditions which defies all notion of the term ‘seaworthy’."

Chris Cox: "I expect the next race will have no sailors on board, just technology. Let’s get back to the original rules and lock them down so this doesn’t happen again."

Mike Knutson: "It’s a pathetic joke . . . this is what it’s like when your life is filled with lawyers."

Dan Haynes: "The ‘race’, if you want to call it one, was won in the courts and on the drawing board."

John Boye: "I’d be more impressed with the AC boats if they could sail when a) there’s some wind, and b) there are waves."

David S.: "Friggin’ Grand. I have been waiting for 22 years for the America’s Cup to come to the Bay and now it’s here."

G Tackles: "These cats are ridiculous exercises of penis-challenged billionaires."

David Fiorito: "Fantastic!! The good guys won! Ernesto got what he deserved."

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