Oracle Sweeps Rivals in America’s Cup

Spithill sails to victory with no traffic at final leg of competition

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Minutes after winning the fleet racing championship in the third stop on the America's Cup World Series on San Diego Bay, Oracle Racing skipper Jimmy Spithill was handed a bottle of champagne from a chase boat and began spraying his crew.

    First on the hit list was Larry Ellison, the Silicon Valley maverick who heads Oracle Corp. and bankrolls the team that brought the America's Cup back to America last year. After soaking his boss, Spithill worked over the four other men on board. 

    "It feels good, actually. I've had a couple of goes at it now," said Spithill, who also got to douse Ellison after winning the match racing championship Saturday. "But he got me back on the stage yesterday ... I'm one up on him. I've got him two saturations to one.

    "It's not often you can say you're up 2-1 on a billionaire."

    Spithill, an Australian who lives part-time in San Diego, became the first skipper in the inaugural season of the ACWS to win both the match racing and fleet racing championships. He won the match racing title Saturday by sweeping two races from the French Energy Team. The ACWS, sailed in ports around the world, is a prelude to the 2013 America's Cup on San Francisco Bay.

    Ellison, one of the world's richest men, rode along both days in the non-sailing guest racer spot on Spithill's AC45, the fast 45-foot catamaran with a wing sail.

    He also was on board BMW Oracle Racing's giant trimaran in the clinching race of the 2010 America's Cup, when Spithill completed a two-race sweep of Alinghi of Switzerland off Valencia, Spain, to win the oldest trophy in international sports for San Francisco's Golden Gate Yacht Club.

    This stop of the ACWS was the first America's Cup racing in the United States since Russell Coutts -- now Oracle Racing's CEO -- led Team New Zealand to a five-race sweep of Dennis Conner off San Diego in 1995.

    "We've worked really hard. It's just great to be able to reward all the guys behind us who've got us here, especially Larry," said Spithill, who at 30 was the youngest skipper to win the Auld Mug. "Whenever Larry's around, everyone naturally lifts, and me personally."

    Ellison left immediately after the race to return to his home in the San Francisco Bay Area.

    Spithill's winning move Sunday came when he rounded the right-hand gate at the end of the third leg and sailed into clean air with no traffic around him. He won by nearly a minute over Dean Barker and Emirates Team New Zealand. Energy Team was third in the nine-boat fleet, followed by France's Aleph, Team Korea, Sweden's Artemis Racing, China Team, Green Comm Racing of Spain and Oracle Racing-Coutts, which was skippered for this regatta by Aussie Dean Bundock.

    Beating a trans-Tasman rival made Spithill's victory that much sweeter.

    “Mate, the worst thing you can ever do in life is let a Kiwi get one up on you," Spithill said about beating Barker. "I can tell you, it's been absolutely brutal since the Rugby World Cup."

    Barker came into this regatta crowing about the All Blacks' victory at the Rugby World Cup last month. Australia finished in third place after losing to the All Blacks in the semifinals.

    "This really was high-pressure stuff," Spithill said.

    Spithill and Barker, who steered Team New Zealand's boat in the clinching race of the 2000 America's Cup, have traded victories in the first two ACWS stops. Spithill won the match racing championship in the opener in Cascais, Portugal, and the fleet racing title in Plymouth, England. Barker won the fleet racing in Cascais and the match racing in Plymouth.

    "We did the double," Spithill said. "The last thing we wanted to do was let Dean get there first. Now we want to get the double-double, do the same in Naples."

    The next ACWS regatta is in Naples, Italy, in April, followed by Venice in May and Newport, Rhode Island, in June.

    Despite Spithill's double win here, Team New Zealand continues to lead the ACWS standings with 55 points, followed by Spithill with 54. Artemis Racing, skippered by American Terry Hutchinson, is a distant third with 40 points.

    Barker said the Kiwis sailed "all right."

    "We could always sail better," he said. "Still not bad results, but we like to win."