After steering New Zealand to the 35th edition of the greatest prize in world sailing, Peter Burling is the youngest ever America’s Cup winning helmsman with overwhelming victory over Oracle USA.
Emirates Team New Zealand completed the upset over holders Oracle Team USA with a 7-1 dismantling and leaving behind the heartbreaking 2013 defeat in San Francisco that saw them turn an 8-1 lead to a 9-8 defeat at the hands of the Americans.
Burling and his underestimated crew imprinted New Zealand’s name into the oldest trophy in world sport – the Auld Mug – for a third time, spoiling Team USA’s hopes of a third straight America’s Cup triumph.
“It is just unreal. It is exactly what we came here for. We are on top of the world. It has been three years of hard work,” said the 26-year-old Burling. “I don’t think we would be out here without the heartbreak of San Francisco.” Oracle’s helmsman, Jimmy Spithill, was polite in defeat. “We are disappointed. But full credit to team New Zealand,” he said. “They fully deserve it, hats off to them.”
Earlier, in the only race of the day, Oracle gambled in favor of a lighter set up for the must-win ninth match, which was to be played out under a sunny sky and shifting 22km/h winds on the Bermuda sound. It was an bold move that was mirrored by the holder’s attitude on the water and it looked to be a masterstroke as the American boat won the race start and dragged their way ahead at the first mark.
But a less than perfect jibe left the door open and, just as they have done all series, New Zealand attacked. They found a superior line and optimized their time on the foils to snatch a five-second gap at the second gate, leaving the pressure heaped on the four Australian hopefuls Ky Hurst, Tom Slingsby, Kyle Langford and Jimmy Spithill aboard Oracle.
Far from nursing their lead, the New Zealanders’ looked to assert their authority on the third leg in light air, opening a buffer the size of two football fields over their opponents. The two boats found themselves on the same side of the race course on the fifth leg as the match racing intensified, with Oracle closing to within 150 meters but still firmly in the wake of the regatta leader. That is where they would stay, the New Zealand grinders eking out nearly 2km/h more pace over the course, pedaling their way to victory in the final race of the regatta by 55 seconds.
It was a categorical end to a dominant performance for the syndicate from the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron, who excelled with their superior downwind speed throughout the series.
For Australian Glenn Ashby who helped shape strategy aboard the new champion, victory was sweet. He was the only remaining sailor from the defeat on San Francisco Bay in 2013. “It has been an amazing journey for us as a team. Personally, for me it is a feeling of relief and immense satisfaction,” said Ashby. Burling paying special mention to the veteran Ashby’s influence: “He plays a massive part in what we do”.
While the winners celebrated, an emotional Spithill was left answering questions about what would come next for one of the greatest mariners of his generation. “I’m not sure. I have spent so much time and energy on one day at a time. I want to get back and thank the entire team and we will take it from there,” he said. Sign up at Heritagesports