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U.S. wins the America's Cup

VALENCIA, Spain - The America's Cup is headed home. For the first time since 1992, the premiere trophy in sailing will come back to the shores of the United States, this time to the Golden Gate Yacht Club on San Francisco Bay.

Larry Ellison's BMW Oracle Racing was the first syndicate to win two races in a rare Deed of Gift match.

Score: Golden Gate Yacht Club -- 2, Société Nautique de Genève -- 0.

Software tycoon Ellison will wing home with the oldest sports trophy after his BMW Oracle Racing syndicate routed the Swiss defending syndicate Alinghi, campaigned and skippered by biotech billionaire Ernesto Bertarelli, although the first 13-mile leg was touch-and-go.

"Wing it home" is an appropriate term because BOR's trimaran sported a 223-foot rigid wing, while Alinghi used traditional sails.

At the start, Alinghi 5 was penalized for being in the wrong place at the wrong time, and USA-17 sailed away in 6 to 7 knots of wind. But the catamaran caught the shifting wind and accelerated down the windward leg, passing the BOR trimaran. As the boats approached the windward mark at about 20 knots, Jim Spithill, skipper of the U.S. yacht, rounded the mark 24 seconds ahead.

For the final two reaching legs, the BOR's wing showed huge power, with speeds as high as 33 knots.

At the second mark, just 44 seconds separated the two yachts; at the finish, that difference had stretched to 5 minutes 26 seconds, which included the penalty turn Alinghi had to make because of the error at the start.

Alinghi was penalized before the start in both the first and second races, but it didn't really matter, because BOR was clearly the superior boat.

Toward the end of the first leg, Bertarelli hoisted a red protest flag for unknown reasons. However, the protest was not put forward, and the results stand -- after two and a half years of contention and litigation in New York Supreme Court. The battle between two of the world's richest men was finally decided on the water.

The distance between the two boats at the end of the race was 1,300 meters - more than 2/3 of a nautical mile.

Spithill -- an Australian and a very aggressive helmsman -- guided the American trimaran to both victories, putting up a 15-minute win in the 40-mile upwind/downwind first race Friday. Ellison and syndicate CEO Russell Coutts were aboard the BOR trimaran today. Neither were on the boat for the first race.

-- Bob Black



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