U.S. success lures fans to Cup 

click to enlarge An Oracle Team USA supporter distributes some star-spangled cheer to her fellow America's Cup fans on Wednesday afternoon. - MIKE KOOZMIN/THE S.F. EXAMINER
  • Mike koozmin/The S.F. Examiner
  • An Oracle Team USA supporter distributes some star-spangled cheer to her fellow America's Cup fans on Wednesday afternoon.

Just a month ago, the America's Cup Village along San Francisco's waterfront had few visitors. Its trendy, temporary bars often had more staff than patrons, and retail workers at souvenir shops stood behind silent cash registers as sailing's most prestigious competition got off to a desultory start with single-competitor "races" that drew little interest.

Then Oracle Team USA launched one of the greatest comebacks in the sport's history.

On Wednesday, tens of thousands lined up along the waterfront, found vantage points on The City's many hills overlooking San Francisco Bay, and took to the water in all manner of watercraft to watch software billionaire Larry Ellison retain sailing's most prestigious trophy.

Workers called in sick, children skipped school and thousands of New Zealanders traveled to San Francisco from their home country to watch sailing's premiere event.

A huge roar went up on Pier 23 when Ellison's 72-foot catamaran came into view for the thousands who chose to watch the race from the finish line. The Oracle boat had a huge lead and was obviously heading for victory.

"USA, USA, USA," the United States fans screamed in unison as the American boat zoomed by and crossed the finish line, completing a remarkable comeback and winning the competition nine races to eight. Oracle was once down 8-1.

Some of the many Kiwis who traveled vast distances at great expense expressed disappointment, mixed with pride and hope for the future.

"Sure, it's disappointing," said Tony Giannotti, who came to San Francisco with his wife. "But we'll be back."

Other Kiwis complained that Ellison's deep pockets made the difference. Ellison's two boats were built exclusively with the billionaire's money. Team New Zealand cobbled together its funding from many sources, including from the New Zealand government itself.

"All this shows is what money can buy," said Glenn Faulkner, a native New Zealander who lives in Half Moon Bay. "But no worries, mate. We gave it a go and we'll be back."


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