VALENCIA, Spain (Reuters)-U.S. challengers BMW Oracle won the 33rd America’s Cup on Sunday, beating Swiss holders Alinghi in the second race to claim the best-of-three series 2-0 in a triumph of superior design and technology.
Software mogul Larry Ellison’s giant trimaran, featuring a towering wing-shaped sail, beat Alinghi by more than five minutes in the second race, leaving the Swiss boat in its wake after snatching the lead at the first mark.
Ellison, an accomplished ocean racer who had never made it to an America’s Cup match before, steered his space-age boat back to the Spanish port of Valencia as night fell, hugging and congratulating his crew members.
“I’m enormously proud of this team,” said after raising the old silver trophy aloft, shouting “Valencia – muchas gracias.”
“It’s a fabulous experience,” the self-made billionaire said.
Ellison’s BMW Oracle team was beaten by Alinghi, backed by banking and biotechnology billionaire Ernesto Bertarelli, in the final of the 2003 challengers series for the America’s Cup, which the Swiss went on to win from holders New Zealand.
The 2010 event came after more than two years of often bitter legal wrangles between Ellison and Bertarelli over the America’s Cup rules, battles which sometimes spilled over into sniping between two of the world’s richest men.
Bertarelli urged Ellison to drop a law suit, to be heard in New York on February 25, over the origins of the sails on his boat, one in a long line of complaints between them which led to the best-of-three showdown without the usual challengers series.
Ellison said there would be “a level playing field” at the next America’s Cup. The date and venue have not been decided yet, he said, but added he had already received notification of a “Challenger of Record” -a main challenger with whom the holders will organize the next regatta.
Asked to comment on reports Italian shipping magnate Vincenzo Onorato had told media he would be the challenger of record, Ellison said: “Vincenzo Onorato’s a close friend of ours and I’ve never known him to be untruthful about anything.”
Onorato’s Mascalzone Latino team competed in the 2003 and 2007 challengers series for the America’s Cup.
An American team had not won sailing’s oldest and most prestigious prize since Bill Koch’s America3 beat Italians Il Moro de Venezia in 1992.
“I’m exceptionally proud to bring the America’s Cup back to the United States after a very long absence,” Ellison said.
It was a convincing victory for Ellison’s boat, a unique trimaran featuring a revolutionary wing-shaped mast and mainsail configuration the height of a 20-storey building.
The carbon fiber and kevlar American boat hit speeds of up to 33 knots, incredibly more than four times the speed of the wind, as it surged away to lead by more than 2,100 meters.
Alinghi, with Bertarelli at the helm, finished 5 mins 26 seconds behind after a miserable race. The Americans won Friday’s first race equally easily.
“This America’s Cup was about speed,” Bertarelli told reporters. “Congratulations to the BMW Oracle team, their boat was faster, no question.”
Bertarelli’s team made an error in pre-start maneuvers -their second in the two races -incurring a penalty turn which had to be executed before they could finish.
The Swiss catamaran made up good ground to lead on the first leg of the 39-nautical mile race but were then blown off the water by BMW Oracle’s superior speed. “You could see there was a bit of a difference between the boats and that’s yacht racing,” Alinghi tactician Brad Butterworth said.
Alinghi had flown a protest flag during the race but later decided to withdraw their complaint.
(By Paul Tait; Editing by Iain Rogers)
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