Mercury News Columnist
SAN FRANCISCO -- What was the turning point for Team Oracle USA in its stunning comeback in the America's Cup? Among many, here are three of the biggest:
On Sept. 10, after the USA lost Race 5 to fall behind on the scoreboard by four races and the Oracle catamaran sputtering to keep up with New Zealand, Spithill pulled out his one-time-only card that allowed him to postpone that day's second scheduled race. This prevented Oracle Team USA from falling behind even farther. And that night, Spithill and his braintrust decided to replace tactician John Kostecki (one of the few Americans on the team and a Bay Area native who knew the local conditions) with Sir Ben Ainslee, the British Olympic star. Oracle lost the next two races but then reeled off victories in 10 of the next 12 starts.
On Sept. 16, when New Zealand was still leading the regatta by a score of 7-1 and Team USA was still struggling with finding the proper boat adjustments, a "reserve day" was scheduled that would have allowed the boats to catch up on previously postponed races. However, New Zealand declined to race that day, handing the Oracle dock crew more time to find the right formula.
And, finally, you can point to the meeting a year and a half ago when it was decided to make the Cup finals a best-of-17 regatta rather than, say, best-of-13 or best-of-15. If it had been best-of-15, New Zealand would have clinched the Cup a week ago. You have to think there are some Kiwis who attended that meeting who wished they had pushed for a shorter event.