SAN FRANCISCO -- Oracle Team USA skipper Jimmy Spithill had quite a Saturday.
His boat became the first to capsize in two weeks of racing at this stop on the America's Cup World Series. Nobody was seriously hurt, but frames on the wing of his 45-foot catamaran were broken, and among those who ended up in the waters of San Francisco Bay was the guest sailor on board -- the nephew of Oracle magnate Larry Ellison, no less.
Still, Spithill could laugh about it because even after being knocked out of the first fleet race, he rebounded by winning this week's match race tournament with a victory over Emirates Team New Zealand.
"All I was thinking is, Where am I going to hold on?" Spithill said of the moment he realized his boat was tipping over. "Obviously it was a big mistake, but I was glad to see the team fight back, and we're happy."
Even before winning the one-on-one competition finals over Emirates Team New Zealand, Oracle Team USA Spithill came back with a second-place finish in the day's second fleet race.
The capsize occurred early in the first fleet race as the crowded field of 11 boats was making the first turn.
"We just got hit with a huge puff (of wind), and by the time we had eased everything, we were too far down," said Spithill, who dangled about 25 feet over the surface but didn't fall in.
He was quick to praise his pit crew for getting the boat back in shape, the builders for constructing a boat that can sail despite broken frames and those on board -- singling out new bow man Jono Macbeth, who kept working after suffering a serious gash on one of his fingers.
Because Oracle Team USA Spithill failed to finish and earned zero points, it's not likely to repeat as fleet champion even with a win in Sunday's final race.
That second title was already a long shot, however, because of the continued strong showing by Ben Ainslie, who had first- and fourth-place finishes Saturday as skipper of J.P. Morgan BAR and a big lead in the standings.
Ainslie, who is also working with Oracle Team USA in preparation for its defense of the America's Cup next summer, threw some kind words Spithill's way after the capsizing.
"Shows it can happen to the best of us," Ainslie said.
Saturday's first fleet race was won by Emirates Team New Zealand, the highly regarded team's first fleet victory in San Francisco competition.
Here are the current fleet race standings going into Sunday's finale: JP Morgan BAR 63, Artemis Racing White 53, Emirates Team New Zealand 48, Artemis Racing Red 39, Oracle Team USA Spithill 37, Energy Team 36, Team Korea 33, Oracle Team USA Coutts 31, Luna Rossa Piranha 28, China Team 19 and Luna Rossa Swordfish 14.
The scoring system gives added weight to Sunday's race with a first-place finish worth 40 points, compared with 25 for second place.
Oracle Team USA Spithill had good speed at the start and used it to defeat Artemis Racing White by 10 seconds. And while Artemis Racing Red got off to a good start against Emirates Team New Zealand, the Swedish entry was penalized for coming in contact with Emirates New Zealand, never recovered and finished 18 seconds behind.
Spithill took an early lead in the finals over the New Zealand team helmed by Dean Barker and survived a late challenge.