Oracle Team USA rallied to win its eighth America’s Cup in what some are calling the best comeback in sports history – beating out Emirates Team New Zealand after starting out seven races behind.

America’s Cup, a yacht sailing competition, was comprised of 19 separate races in the San Francisco Bay – a competition that went on for two weeks and culminated in a final, winner takes all, race on Wednesday.

Oracle Team USA and Emirates Team New Zealand were sailing AC72s, new wing sail catamarans capable of ‘flying’ on foils and going at speeds close to 40 mph (43 knots boatspeed).

Nine races into this year’s competition, Oracle was trailing behind New Zealand with a dreary 8-1, leaving Team New Zealand only one victory away from winning the America’s Cup. Oracle somehow managed to win eight consecutive races and ended up defeating New Zealand, keeping the America’s Cup in the U.S.

Oracle’s magnificent comeback was due to some technical improvements the team made to their boats (many of them have engineering backgrounds).

“We changed [the balance of the boat] by manipulating the wing shapes and flaps. So we didn’t actually change anything in a physical sense. We just changed the setting, so we more bottom-loaded the wing and more off-loaded that, and that created a different loading for the foils. And that was probably the biggest change we made. And then there were a bunch of little changes that just reduced the drag a few kilos here and a few kilograms there, and all of a sudden you have an edge,” Russell Coutts a skipper and chief executive for Oracle Team USA revealed to The New York Times.

Whatever the improvements, Oracle was able to manipulate their boat to give them an edge going upwind. Coutts also made sure to give credit to the eleven crewmembers on the boat:

“Everyone talks about the technology: ‘What changes did you make?’ The guys on board changed a lot. For sure there was a use of the technology change where we manipulated the force or manipulated the balance of those forces, but the guys on board the boat changed their technique, so there’s this fantastic human element to this which really won the day in the end, which is great,” Cotts said.

Oracle Team USA is owned by billionaire Larry Ellison and was originally docked two points after illegally modifying their boats in the pre-competition. Ellison has reportedly spent $500 million in his efforts to win the America’s Cup in the last 11 years, and is pleased that the new boats have attracted a larger audience to the sport of sailing.

“This was the most magnificent spectacle on the water. These 40-plus knot catamarans are amazing. By going to catamarans we tried to make sailing a bit more extreme, friendlier for the viewing audience. A lot of people weren’t interested in sailing, and now they are,” Ellison said after the win.

Olivia Truffaut-Wong

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