Sailing: Skipper Jimmy Spithill and defending champion Oracle Team USA overtook Emirates Team New Zealand on the upwind third leg Tuesday to win their astonishing seventh straight race and force a winner-take-all finale in the longest America’s Cup ever.
All but defeated a week ago, Oracle Team USA tied the faltering Kiwis 8-8 on the scoreboard by winning its 10th race overall. Oracle was docked two points for illegally modifying boats in warmup regattas.
If it hadn’t been hit with the harshest penalties in the 162-year history of the America’s Cup, Oracle Team USA’s sailors would be hoisting the silver trophy in victory.
Instead, the epic 19th race is scheduled today, weather-permitting, on San Francisco Bay.
Either Oracle will finish one of the greatest comebacks in sports history or Team New Zealand, marooned on match point for the past week, will get the elusive win it needs to claim the Auld Mug for the second time in 18 years.
Oracle, which trailed 8-1 last Wednesday, came from behind and passed the Kiwis after they tacked too early and slowed while zigzagging toward the Golden Gate Bridge. The American-backed boat – with only one American on its 11-man crew – sped past and built its lead to more than 1,000 yards on the windward fourth leg going past Alcatraz Island.
The final margin was 54 seconds. Spithill, a 34-year-old Australian who has been almost defiant about his team’s ability to rebound from the penalties, did a flyby of Pier 27-29, with his crew lining the port hull to wave and pump their fists toward the crowd.
• Oracle CEO skips work: Oracle CEO Larry Ellison is so immersed in his boating team’s stirring comeback in the America’s Cup that he backed out of giving the marquee speech at his software company’s biggest customer conference of the year.
Ellison skipped his scheduled appearance Tuesday afternoon so he could watch Oracle Team USA try to win its seventh straight race against Emirates Team New Zealand on the San Francisco Bay. The Oracle Corp. conference attended by about 60,000 people is being held at a convention center located about two miles from where the America Cup’s races finish.
Grizzlies suspend safety for 1 game
College football: University of Montana free safety Matt Hermanson has been suspended for the Northern Arizona game on Saturday after being arrested for criminal mischief.
Hermanson pleaded not guilty in Justice Court Monday to charges that he damaged signs near Fort Missoula. He remains free on $500 bond.
Attorney Paul Ryan says Hermanson pleaded guilty to an earlier speeding citation and paid a reduced fine of about $75. Ryan said he expected the criminal mischief charge to be resolved quickly.
• Clemson disciplines receiver: Clemson coach Dabo Swinney says starting receiver Martavis Bryant will have his playing time reduced against Wake Forest for making unacceptable throat-slashing gestures following a touchdown catch against North Carolina State last week.
Swinney said that he was unaware of Bryant’s antics until reviewing tape of the game.
The coach says the gestures are not representative of the Tigers program and Bryant will face discipline. No. 3 Clemson (3-0, 1-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) plays the Demon Deacons (2-2, 0-1) at Memorial Stadium on Saturday.
Kahne says health not issue after race
Auto racing: Kasey Kahne was frustrated he’d blown his championship chances with a “hardheaded mistake” at New Hampshire, and it boiled over into a brief televised interview that left viewers speculating about his health.
Kahne said there was nothing physically wrong with him following his accident at New Hampshire. Rather, he realized immediately after his crash with 47 laps remaining Sunday that his title hopes were over, and he allowed his anger to derail the now widely discussed interview with ESPN reporter Jerry Punch.
“I screwed up and I was frustrated. Two races in, I’m already out of the Chase. It’s a (crummy) deal,” Kahne said.
Fans watching Kahne’s post-crash interview on television immediately took to social media to say Kahne appeared dazed, confused and some speculated he had a concussion.
Punch tried to ask Kahne what happened to cause the crash, and Kahne said, “I don’t know. I’m not sure what happened.”
Punch tried again, and Kahne didn’t offer any more insight.
• Harvick stays with Jimmy John’s: Kevin Harvick will keep his Jimmy John’s sponsorship when he moves to Stewart-Haas Racing in 2014.
The sandwich company will serve as the primary sponsor of the No. 4 Chevrolet for 12 Sprint Cup races, including the Brickyard 400.
Venus Williams upsets Azarenka
Tennis: Venus Williams upset top-seeded Victoria Azarenka 6-2, 6-4 to advance to the third round of the Pan Pacific Open.
In her first appearance in the Tokyo tournament since 2009, Williams took advantage of six-double faults by Azarenka at Ariake Colosseum.
Williams next faces No. 13-seeded Simona Halep, who defeated Andrea Petkovic 7-6 (4), 6-3.
In other second-round matches, second-seeded Agnieszka Radwanska defeated Aleksandra Wozniak 7-6 (5), 6-0. Fourth-seeded Caroline Wozniacki overpowered Flavia Pennetta 6-2, 6-3.
Svetlana Kuznetsova also advanced by beating third- seeded Sara Errani 6-4, 6-4.
Kuznetsova will next face 15th-seeded Sorana Cirstea, who beat Misaki Doi 6-1, 6-2.
Eugenie Bouchard defeated ninth-seeded American Sloane Stephens 5-7, 7-6 (7), 6-3. She will play sixth-seeded Jelena Jankovic, who beat Ayumi Morita 6-4, 6-1.