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USA caps miraculous comeback to keep America's Cup

  • Members of Oracle Team USA celebrate after overcoming an unprecedented 8-1 deficit to defeat Emirates Team New Zealand on Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2013. (CONNER JAY/ PD)

Oracle Team USA capped off one of the greatest comebacks in sports history Wednesday with a come-from-behind victory over a gobsmacked Kiwi crew to earn sailing's ultimate prize and the right to decide where the America's Cup competition will take place next time.

Down 8 races to 1, the American team stormed back, capturing eight consecutive contests to win 9-8 in the first-to-nine-wins series. They won Wednesday's race despite falling behind at the start and plunging the bows of their futuristic catamaran into the water.

Nick Schulz of Santa Rosa called the American victory the “greatest moment in sailing history,” one he witnessed up close aboard the Sausalito schooner Freda B.

2013 America's Cup

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Schulz, a retired real estate agent and a sailing enthusiast, watched every race live. He attributed Oracle's success in overcoming the deficit to tweaks made nightly to the team's boat, and to the make-up of personnel, which changed as the race series went on.

That included Oracle replacing American tactician John Kostecki with four-time Olympic gold medalist Ben Ainslie of Britain.

“They had a lot more brainpower on the boat,” Schulz said.

Still, the indefatigable New Zealand team appeared to have a shot at winning Wednesday's race with a 65-meter lead going into the second gate. But that advantage disappeared after three lead changes on the upwind leg, which put Oracle in the lead to stay.

When it was over, Australian-born skipper Jimmy Spithill brought the Oracle boat in close for a victory lap as water cannons in the background trumpeted the victory. Owner Larry Ellison jumped aboard to exclaim, “Hey guys, you just won the America's Cup!”

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