SAN FRANCISCO — After a rough week of unprecedented penalties and three straight losses, defending America's Cup champion Oracle Team USA finally had something to smile about following a high-speed romp around San Francisco Bay.
Oracle Team USA's 72-foot catamaran came flying out of the fog around the fourth mark and stayed ahead of challenger Emirates Team Zealand in a heart-stopping sprint to the finish to win Race 4 by 8 seconds Sunday.
Skipper Jimmy Spithill reached back with his left hand and patted the left shoulder of tactician John Kostecki, one of only two Americans on the 11-man crew.
"It was a real sign of strength from the guys to be able bounce back from a situation like that, having lost three in a row, especially going into the break tomorrow," Spithill said. "It's a real confidence booster for the boys."
It was the first victory of the regatta for Oracle, which still has a long way to go to keep the oldest trophy in international sports. Owned by software billionaire Larry Ellison of Oracle Corp., Oracle Team USA was docked two points by an international jury in the biggest cheating scandal in the regatta's 162-year history. That meant the Americans started at minus-2.
Oracle needs to win 10 more races to keep the silver trophy.
"It was fantastic racing," said Spithill, an Australian who lives in San Diego with his American wife. "We've been talking about this for a long time and there have been a lot of people who have probably bagged it and said, 'Ah, are we going to see a decent race?' Well, man, it's delivering. Just to see the energy in the crowd and the people that are getting behind us is huge. And that's making a difference. The more people who can do that, we've got a better chance of keeping the Cup here."
Team New Zealand won Race 3 earlier in the day and needs to win six more to take the Auld Mug to the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron, which held it from 1995-2003.