High-tech -- and high-risk -- at the America's Cup

The America's Cup is held in San Francisco.
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(CBS News) SAN FRANCISCO - They are calling it the September Showdown. Team USA and Team New Zealand will face off in the America's Cup finals, which begin Saturday in San Francisco Bay.

The teams will be racing in the most technologically advanced sailboats ever made.

But it hasn't been smooth sailing for this year's regatta.

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The 72-foot catamarans racing for America's Cup don't just sail, they fly.

The catamarans are so high-tech, hydrofoils lift the boats out of the water.
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Jimmy Spithill, the skipper of Oracle Team USA, says the feeling when the boat lifts up on the hydrofoil is amazing and exhilarating.

"It's the kind of feeling that you never get sick of," said Spithill.

The boats use a 13-story-tall wing to catch the wind. And underneath the hull, hydrofoils lift the boats out of the water.

Jimmy Spithill is the skipper of Oracle Team USA.
CBS News

"It enables us to get speeds up to over 60 miles an hour. So they're very, very fast. You've got almost hurricane winds coming up to the deck. And then it starts accelerating, and it just keeps growing and growing and growing," said Spithill.

A sailor died when the Swedish team's boat capsized in May. Team USA flipped its boat last fall.

"These boats are definitely more dangerous. You know, a Formula One car is a lot more dangerous than your family sedan. Nascar is a lot more dangerous. But that's where the sport's at. This isn't for the average sailor," said Spithill.

The stakes have never been higher; each team has spent $100 million.

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Earlier this week, Team USA was penalized for an illegal modification during warm up races.

"I don't agree with the sanctions, but the fact is that I've moved on. I think it's given us motivation," said Spithill.

They'll need more than that. As part of the penalty, the Americans will begin the finals two races in the hole.

  • Carter Evans

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