Amazing US rally levels America's Cup
Crew members of Oracle Team USA react after defeating Emirates Team New Zealand during Race 18. Photo: Reuters
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If Australian James Spithill and his crew on the America's Cup defender, Oracle Team USA, win tomorrow's decider on San Francisco Bay after tying the series this morning (AEST), their comeback would better that of Australia II in their historic win in 1983.
That was the view on Wednesday of veteran Australian sailing campaigner Syd Fisher.
On the cusp of victory: Team Oracle USA during Race 11 of the 34th America's Cup yacht sailing race in San Francisco. Photo: Reuters
It was Fisher, 86, who gave fellow Sydneysider Spithill, now aged 34, his first break in the America's Cup when he appointed Spithill, who was then aged 20, as the youngest ever helmsman for an America's Cup on Young Australia for his 2000 campaign.
Fisher, a veteran of five America's Cups (1983, 1987, 1992, 1995 and 2000), has been as surprised as anyone by how Oracle Team USA have clawed their way back from the brink of losing the Auld Mug when 8-1 down to draw level at 8-8 with Team New Zealand. More remarkable, to do so Oracle Team USA have had to win 10 races after starting at minus two points as a penalty for an infraction in the 2012 lead-up series.
Fisher said a victory by Oracle Team USA in the 19th and deciding race scheduled for Thursday morning (AEST) would surpass the feat of Australia II in 1983 when - on the very same day 30 years ago, September 26, 1983 – the Australians fought back from being 3-1 down to beat American Dennis Connors' Liberty 4-3 in the seven race series and become the first non-American Cup winners in its then 132 years existence.
"That's a comeback, isn't it?" Fisher told Fairfax Media on Wednesday morning after Oracle Team USA won the 17th and 18th races to take the Cup to its one-off decider.
"Spithill and the boys have got the boat moving This is really a comeback ...
"[Winning the America's Cup now] would beat the 1983 comeback, after coming back from the deficit they had. It was unimaginable actually, that they could do it."
With so much now at stake after the emotional and physical toil of having won the last seven races to draw level, how does Fisher believe Spithill will prepare his crew?
Fisher, who says one of Spithill qualities is that he is "cool and has a lot of common sense", will know they can't bank on their momentum of success getting them home.
Momentum is on the side of Oracle Team USA that has forced the Dean Barker skippered Team New Zealand crew to sit agonisingly on match point for one week.
But come the final race, says Fisher, all that will matter is performance on the day.
"You just have to tell the crew to take one thing at a time," Fisher said.
"You might be having a bit of trouble, but you have to deal with each thing as they come up. What I think he will do is get the crew to realise, 'This is a race. This is the one we have got to win. We won't worry about the past, and we won't worry about the future. We have to win this race, the one that we are in right now."