New Zealand crush the US to run away with the America’s Cup in sailing

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 27 June, 2017, 3:05am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 27 June, 2017, 10:27am

New Zealand won the America’s Cup on Monday, almost whitewashing the US holders with a revolutionary boat and a new superstar sailor to avenge a humbling defeat four years ago.

A dominant Emirates Team New Zealand claimed international sport’s oldest trophy by 7-1 in Bermuda’s Great Sound, with 26-year-old Peter Burling becoming the youngest helmsman to secure sailing’s biggest prize.

In doing so, Burling usurped New Zealand’s nemesis, Oracle Team USA skipper Jimmy Spithill, who won the cup in 2010 aged 30 and was hoping for a third successive victory for the syndicate bankrolled by Larry Ellison.

The billionaire Oracle founder was on the water to watch and came ashore afterwards, dressed in Oracle Team USA kit, to greet both teams after a fascinating battle of wills and technology.

Burling showered his jubilant team mates and support crew with champagne after their sleek black, red and white catamaran crossed the line, having dominated the race from early on.

“We’re all ecstatic about what we have managed to achieve and we are on top of the world, it’s going to be a good night,” Burling said after coolly steering his space-age 50-foot (15 metre) catamaran to yet another win over Spithill.

“We’re disappointed obviously but first of all full credit to Team New Zealand, what a series,” Spithill said. “They really were a class above in this America’s Cup... They outsailed us and had a better boat... really well done.”

The America’s Cup, named after the schooner “America” which won it in 1851 off the south coast of England, has only been held by four countries so far, the United States, Australia, New Zealand and Switzerland.

New Zealand won the right to take on the US by beating four other “challengers”, using cycling sailors known as “cyclors” to provide pedal power to control their foiling 50-foot (15 metre) catamaran’s vast “wing” sail and hydrofoils.

The winners will now decide where, when and in what type of boat the next America’s Cup will be held, though they have until now not provided any clues as to what they are planning.

The New Zealand crew have been on a mission to wipe out the hurt inflicted on the sports-mad country by the team who in 2013 turned an 8-1 deficit against New Zealand into a 9-8 victory.

New Zealand skipper Glenn Ashby, who has a low-key but critical role on board “trimming” the giant wing with a games console-type device, was the only one of the crew beaten in 2013 who took part in this year’s winning combination.

“Relief to right the wrongs of the last campaign,” Ashby said when asked how he felt. “There will be a lot of proud Kiwis today with what has been achieved over the last few years.”

His helm Burling, who won Olympic gold in Rio de Janeiro last year in the 49er skiff class with fellow crew member Blair Tuke, has exuded a disarming calm on and off the water and has now won himself a place in yachting history.

He has also brought a youthful confidence to New Zealand’s rejuvenated campaign to regain the “Auld Mug”.

Many have put New Zealand’s triumph down to the revolutionary “cycling” system developed to power the hydraulics needed to control the catamaran’s foils, which lift it out of the water, and the vast “wing” sail which drives it along.

Their “cyclors”, including an Olympic cycling medallist, have kept their heads down throughout the contest, pedalling furiously to provide enough oil in the system to allow the boat to perform almost balletic pirouette manoeuvres on the water.

The sight of the boats skimming over the crystal clear waters of the natural sailing “arena” has drawn new audiences for sailing both in Bermuda and on television.

New Zealanders, in their uniform of black shirts and red socks, greeted the victors with flags and cheers.