Tennis star Steffi Graf thinks she might just have brought her new sailing buddies luck on the Hauraki Gulf today

Tennis star Steffi Graf thinks she might just have brought her new sailing buddies luck on the Hauraki Gulf today as she cheered AmericaOne to a pulsating nine second win over Luna Rossa in the Louis Vuitton Cup finals today. Graf urged the Californians on to their win, yelling “come on you guys, go go” as AmericaOne rounded the final mark just seven seconds ahead of the Italian challenge.

The former women’s world No 1 tennis player said she could not have wished for a more exciting race as she perched on the stern of AmericaOne for the two-hour race. “It was very exciting. It couldn’t have been more thrilling and closer, so it was an incredible experience,” Graf told reporters after the race. “I didn’t know it was going to be that close, but I hoped I would be giving them a little luck and I guess I did.” Graf, who has little sailing experience, said she was not scared in the race but instead had a lot of fun.

AmericaOne skipper Paul Cayard handed Graf the wheel on the sail back to the Viaduct Basin, with Cayard making sure his crew got a photograph to record the moment. Luna Rossa skipper Francesco de Angelis said Prada would be sticking with their good luck charm, 73-year-old Renzo Guidi as 17th man, while dodging questions about why Italians thought women were bad luck on boats. “We have a gentleman that stays with us, and we are pleased with his company. We like to take girls when we go cruising, just to give them a better time I guess.”

AmericaOne trimmer Terry Hutchinson showed Graf around the boat earlier in the morning, showing her how to cling to the side of the boat during the bumpy times. “I don’t think she knew squat about sailboat racing,” Hutchinson said later. “But I think she really appreciated the high level of competition and the high level of intensity that we had going pretty much all the way around the race course today. “She was pretty agile in the back of the boat. She really did a good job of just moving around and staying out of trouble. “We talked a little bit about tennis and when we finished that race I said that was comparable to the (Andre) Agassi (Pete) Sampras match at the Australian Open, and she said, yeah, I think you’re right.”

Hutchinson said Graf might just have broken the racing rules by yelling encouragement, but he said she was allowed to show emotion. “Certainly everybody on our boat has the utmost respect for what she’s accomplished in her life. And I think we all feel that we’re close to where she is in her sport in our sport, so it’s cool for us to share some mutual respect for somebody who’s a top athlete in their sport.” AmericaOne’s win today tied the score with Prada at 3-3 in the best of nine series.