America’s Cup - Sport

Team New Zealand on top of the world

  • Emirates Team New Zealand celebrate with the America’s Cup (Photograph by Ricardo Pinto/© ACEA 2017)
  • Champagne is the order of the day once Emirates Team New Zealand get to shore after their historic victory (Photograph by Ricardo Pinto/© ACEA 2017)
  • Emirates Team New Zealand have won the America’s Cup for the first time since 2000 (File photograph by Blaire Simmons)

There was an air of inevitability as Emirates Team New Zealand put the finishing touches to their triumphant America’s Cup campaign.

Starting the day on match point, the Kiwis secured the “Auld Mug” in the first race of the day, coming from behind to win and clinch the series 7-1.

Once they seized control by the third mark, the race felt more like a victory parade for Team New Zealand, who have well and truly exorcised the ghosts from their previous challenge four years ago.

It was a gut-wrenching collapse in San Francisco, the Kiwis surrendering an 8-1 lead to Oracle Team USA, although there was never even a whiff of a comeback this time around.

Oracle’s spirit had already been broken after back-to-back losses on Sunday, when any realistic chance they had of forcing their way back into the match evaporated, along with the fire in Jimmy Spithill’s fighting talk.

The foundations of Team New Zealand’s conquest were laid long before they even arrived in Bermuda — the last of the six teams do so — opting to stay in Auckland during their testing and development period.

Make no mistake, this was as much a victory for innovation as it was for seamanship.

Take nothing away from Peter Burling and his crew, though, who applied the technology and threw the flying machine they were built around the Great Sound with skill and precision.

At 26, Burling is now the youngest helmsman to hoist the oldest trophy in international sport — a distinction previously held by opposite number Spithill, who won the cup in 2010 aged 30.

“We are on top of the world!” Burling said. “This is exactly what we intended to do.

“It’s been three years of hard work and this is exactly what we came here for. We are ecstatic about what we have managed to achieve here.”

Burling and skipper Glenn Ashby, the lone survivor from the 2013 horror show, were doused in champagne by their team-mates as the pair jointly lifted the trophy.

Ashby admitted that the Kiwis made some risky technical decisions, such as the radical move to pedal-power grinding stations, but hailed the team’s commitment to “thinking outside the square”.

“We were open-minded all of the way through to make those hard decisions and take the path we did,” said Ashby, who was instrumental in the switch to cyclors.

“As we saw today, we got most of them right! The foresight we had to be aggressive and bold in our design philosophy has ultimately provided us with the victory.”

For the 39-year-old Australian, the win was all the sweeter, as it signalled a remarkable turnaround since San Francisco.

“It was absolutely brutal for the team in San Francisco and it was a hard pill to swallow,” Ashby said. “It’s a great redemption and just a relief to right the wrongs of the last campaign.

“To be able to come to Bermuda quite late with a fairly aggressively designed package, against all odds really, and pull off this victory is an immensely proud moment.”

Spithill hoped to steer Oracle — bankrolled by American billionaire Larry Ellison — to a third successive title and said the defeat will take time to digest.

“We haven’t talked about that, we just focused on winning this race,” Spithill said.

“Larry said, ‘You can get this done’, and he believed. But we haven’t spoken at all about the team and what the future holds.

“Even when you win, you think about what you did wrong. Now that we’ve lost, the list is long. In the reflection period, it’s important to think it through and try and learn the lessons.” Grant Dalton, the Team New Zealand chief executive, said that the plans for the next edition will “play out in the next few weeks”.

But he did reveal that Italy’s Luna Rossa has been chosen as the Challenger of Record for the 36th America’s Cup.

“The 36th America’s Cup will be open to further challengers from any organised yacht club of a foreign country under conditions to be announced in due course,” Dalton added.