Oracle Wins America’s Cup
Double the hull. Quadruple the speed. That was the gauntlet thrown down by victorious billionaire syndicate owner Larry Ellison when he wrested the Auld Mug from fellow billionaire Ernesto Bertarelli’s Alinghi team in 2010. His America’s Cup manifesto 2013’s regatta would “ensure fast, exciting racing” and “capture fans’ imaginations.” But even he might have failed to anticipate the high octane drama that ensued from his decision to use high-tech catamarans for the 34th America’s Cup in San Francisco. Certainly spectators were treated to the type of dangerous top speed racing more akin to a Formula One competition, including crashes and death, than a traditional boating competition. A critic dubbed it the “billionaire death match”.
The new design allowed boats weighing 13,000 pounds (about six tonnes), 72-feet long and powered by a stiff 131-foot wingsail to reach speeds in excess of 40 knots in winds blowing 20 knots or less. That’s serious speed.
It also galvanised an American public who had largely proved indifferent to the competition in its early stages. But when skipper Jimmy Spithill staged his improbable comeback from 8-1 down to accomplish what’s been called his “Cinderella moment” the whole country was watching. Yachting World’s David Glenn called it “a comeback story of unbelievable proportions and the unexpected success of the most outrageous yachts seen in the history of the sport.”