At last, America's Cup has its shining moment 

click to enlarge Oracle Team USA celebrates after it completed the biggest comeback in the history of the America's Cup. - MIKE KOOZMIN/THE S.F. EXAMINER
  • Mike koozmin/the s.f. examiner
  • Oracle Team USA celebrates after it completed the biggest comeback in the history of the America's Cup.

For one week, the 34th America's Cup lived up to its billing.

Oracle Team USA completed the Miracle on Water on Wednesday, coming all the way back from an 8-1 deficit against Emirates Team New Zealand to retain the oldest trophy in international sports. Mike Eruzione must be smiling.

Oracle's comeback should go down with the best in the history of sports, right up there with the Boston Red Sox's shocking comeback in the 2004 American League Championship Series, the Buffalo Bills' improbable revival against the Houston Oilers in the 1993 NFL playoffs and the New York Giants' late-season rally against the Brooklyn Dodgers to capture the 1951 National League pennant.

NBC Sports announcer Gary Jobson didn't do his best Russ Hodges impression by screaming, "Oracle wins the Cup! Oracle wins the Cup!" as Jimmy Spithill and Co. crossed the finish line at Pier 27 — but it would have been fitting.

Oracle's win is without question the most dramatic in the Cup's 162-year history. Prior to Wednesday, the largest deficit overcome in America's Cup competition was Australia II's 1983 rally from a 3-1 hole in a best-of-seven contest against New York Yacht Club's Liberty.

What makes this comeback possibly more impressive than those in other sports is the nature of the competition in sailing. The technology race off-shore, in most cases, determines who wins the clash in the water.

In the opening races of the series, the Kiwis crushed Oracle in the upwind legs of the course. They won eight of the first 11 races and while Oracle made several tactical errors, they also lacked the ability to consistently foil upwind. With a more advanced boat and just one race to win, a New Zealand triumph seemed inevitable.

But in less than a week, Oracle tweaked and adjusted its boat just enough to bridge the technology gap and by Wednesday, the team was foiling and flying on every leg of the course.

The comeback is even more impressive when you consider that Oracle also overcame a two-point penalty for cheating in the America's Cup World Series and you have to tip your cap to the team for having the audacity to switch tacticians after five races.

Despite the thrilling finish, the competition provided only a few days of excitement instead of an entire summer of spectacular racing.

The dramatic finale doesn't put $1.2 billion into the local economy or give The City the 8,000 jobs that CEO Stephen Barclay promised way back in 2010.

Will we look back on the 34th America's Cup through rose-tinted glasses and recall the competition's epic conclusion or will we remember the protests, the legal wrangling and the safety lapses that led to the tragic death of a 36-year-old father of two children?

With Oracle's win, Larry Ellison could bring the America's Cup back to The City in 2015 or 2016 and possibly redeem himself.

A few tweaks could bring in a few more teams and maybe give us more than a week's worth of excitement.

Paul Gackle is a contributor to The San Francisco Examiner. He can be reached at and followed on Twitter @GackleReport.

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