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Ainslie's magic works again
11:20pm Wednesday 25th September 2013 in Sport
He’s done it – again. Olympic hero Sir Ben Ainslie further cemented his place in the history books as one of the greatest sailors of all time last night after winning the America’s Cup, yachting’s most prestigious trophy.
Ainslie added sailing’s biggest prize to the four Olympic gold medals already under his belt as he guided Team USA to a sensational comeback victory.
The 36-year-old from Lymington was faultless in his pivotal role as tactician, masterminding his crew’s strategic manoeuvres around the 12-mile course on San Francisco harbour.
In a thrilling finale, Team USA crossed the finish line 44 seconds ahead of their competitors to seal the win – and one of the greatest sporting comebacks of all time.
Cheers went up from the 11-man crew as the enormity of their victory sunk in.
Moments after the finish, winning skipper Jimmy Spithill said: “What a race – it had everything. “It’s all about the team though. When you’ve got a team around you like these guys they make you look great. “We were facing the barrel of the gun at 8-1 and these guys didn’t even flinch.
“This is one hell of a day.”
The regatta, the 34th America’s Cup to be held since it began in 1851, went badly for Team USA before any sailing took place after they were deducted two points for a rules breach in a warm-up event.
They then lost eight races in 11 to put the Kiwis within striking distance of regaining the trophy for only the third time in history.
But, just when it looked like the event would end in a whitewash, Team USA used their one and only postponement card, allowing them to veto racing for the day.
During a regroup, Ainslie was drafted in to the squad to replace cup veteran John Kostecki – and there began a winning streak that saw Team USA claim seven consecutive victories to level the scores.
That set up a nail-biting winner-takes-all finale with everything at stake.
With a stiff 25-knot breeze blowing the multi-million pound catamarans, which lift out of the water on hydrofoils, were hitting speeds of almost 50mph as they blasted around the racetrack.
Team New Zealand had an early advantage, leading around the first half of the course – but it wasn’t long before Team USA, under the expert guidance of Ainslie, clawed their way back into racing.
As the teams entered the fourth of five legs Team USA had stretched out an unassailable 500 metre lead.
From there the Kiwis were helpless as Team USA scorched across the line Team New Zealand last won the cup in 2000, the second time they have won.
In comparison, Team USA have won 30 of the 34 America’s Cup events.
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