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United States recaptures America's Cup in rout

Estimates put software tycoon Larry Ellison’s campaign to win the Auld Mug at about $200 million for just two races.

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Estimates put software tycoon Larry Ellison’s campaign to win the Auld Mug at about $200 million for just two races.

VALENCIA, Spain — Still bundled against the cold in his foul-weather gear, software tycoon Larry Ellison hoisted the America's Cup, then planted a kiss on the oldest trophy in international sports.

"Valencia — muchas gracias!" the billionaire screamed.

The America's Cup is back in American hands.

It was swept away from Europe by Ellison's space-age trimaran USA, which sports a gigantic wing for a sail and easily sped ahead of two-time defending champion Alinghi of Switzerland to complete a two-race sweep Sunday.

"I am especially proud to bring the America's Cup, once again, after a long absence, back to the United States of America," said Ellison, 65, the CEO of Oracle Corp.

The Auld Mug, as the silver jug is also known, now belongs to San Francisco's Golden Gate Yacht Club. The Americans lost it in 1995 to New Zealand.

BMW Oracle Racing CEO Russell Coutts popped the cork on a magnum of champagne and sprayed his boss and skipper-helmsman Jimmy Spithill.

Ellison and rival Ernesto Bertarelli — two of the world's wealthiest men — had been locked in a court fight since July 2007, and it looked for a while like the result of this race was going to be contested off the water.

Alinghi raised a protest flag on its giant catamaran late on the first leg of the triangle course during Race 2. The Swiss were unhappy about a prestart 270-degree turn penalty but decided it would not have affected the outcome and dropped the protest afterward.

Asked if the Americans planned to drop litigation against the Swiss and their sails in the New York State Supreme Court, Ellison said: "The only thing we ever wanted was to beat Alinghi on the water with a fair set of rules. And that's what we got today."

Bertarelli wasn't at the hand-over ceremony, but he and Ellison shook hands exiting the news conference.

"Congratulations to the BMW Oracle team, their boat was faster," Bertarelli said. "They had a strategy, they got a little help from the legal system in New York, and that always makes it difficult for us Europeans, and that gave them advantages. They were faster, good on them."

The American trimaran took a 28-second lead rounding the first mark Sunday, and the final margin was 5 minutes, 25 seconds.

One of the lasting images will be that of Spithill steering from his airborne helm with two of the three hulls lifted out of the water.

"It's just such an awesome tool for racing," Spithill said.

Ellison confirmed that Italian syndicate Mascalzone Latino will be the next Challenger of Record, helping to set the rules for the 34th America's Cup.

When did Bertarelli know this Cup was lost?

"The first race," he said. "… I was very surprised by the first 20 minutes of the race. We were out of range most of the time. We were surprised."

NOOD regatta: Tim Healy of Jamestown, R.I., who won the J/24 boat class, was named the overall winner of the National Offshore One-Design regatta that ended Sunday on Tampa Bay just off the Pier in St. Petersburg. Healy receives an invitation to compete in the NOOD Championships in the British Virgin Islands in November. St. Petersburg's Peter Katrcha went undefeated in the Corsair 28R class, taking first in all six races.

United States recaptures America's Cup in rout 02/14/10 [Last modified: Sunday, February 14, 2010 8:17pm]
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