SAN FRANCISCO -- Oracle Team USA skipper Jimmy Spithill knew he had his work cut out for him Sunday.
His 45-foot catamaran began the day in fourth place in the America's Cup World Series fleet race standings, then got off to a poor start in the finale as he trailed everyone at the first mark. But he and his crew would pass everyone else. And because of a scoring system weighted to give the final race extra importance, Spithill won the week's competition.
"We were dead last," Spithill said, "but we've got a great team of fighters here."
The heavy emphasis on the final race meant Oracle Team USA Spithill earned 40 points for the win, not the usual 12. That was enough to tie Ben Ainslie, the J.P. Morgan BAR skipper who dominated the fleet races all week, but finished fourth Sunday.
The tiebreaker? Who won the most recent race.
Despite falling short of his first fleet championship in only his second series, Ainslie said he had no complaint about the scoring system.
"That's the nature of this race in that it's stacked on the last day. Everybody knows that," Ainslie said. "That's the deal and you have to accept that."
Sunday's victory gave Spithill a sweep of both titles this week as he won the match tournament Saturday night. Even so, the past five days were not always kind to Spithill, who won two of the seven fleet races, but had his boat capsize in one and finish eighth in another.
"This team never gives up and
The final fleet race was a strong one for both of host Oracle Team USA's boats as skipper Russell Coutts came in second.
Ainslie's problems came early Sunday, including a penalty at the starting line.
"We just tried to get into a gap that was too small, but I don't think that was necessarily the race there and then," said Ainslie, who competed independently this week but is also part of Oracle Team USA going forward. "Probably the first upward leg was where we lost it because we got stuck in a corner."
Though he gained ground, it wasn't enough as he fell 20 seconds short of the necessary third-place finish he needed to win the title outright. All of the skippers were very much aware of where each needed to finish under the complicated points system if they wanted to win the overall title.
Sunday's event was the final lead-up on San Francisco Bay to the actual America's Cup competition here next summer, when three teams -- Sweden's Artemis Racing Team, Italy's Luna Rossa and Emirates Team New Zealand -- will compete for the right to challenge Oracle Team USA.
Though the America's Cup competition will be on 72-foot catamarans that go much faster over a larger course, Coutts, who doubles as Oracle Team USA's CEO, said the results in the world series are encouraging.
"Jimmy and Ben are already sailing really well and I think the writing's on the wall," Coutts said. "Another year of practice and trials and working together, I think it's going to be a very powerful combination."
Here are the final standings in this week's fleet competition: Oracle Team USA Spithill 79, J.P. Morgan BAR 79, Artemis Racing White 72, Emirates Team New Zealand 57, Oracle Team USA Coutts 56, Artemis Racing Red 52, Energy Team 47, Team Korea, 40, Luna Rossa Piranha 36, China Team, 28 and Luna Rossa Swordfish 20.