PETER BURLING AND EMIRATES TEAM NEW ZEALAND WIN THE 35TH AMERICA'S CUP
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, Australia's Jimmy Spithill, who won the cup in 2010 at the age of 30 and was hoping for a third successive victory for the syndicate bankrolled by Larry Ellison.
Ellison, the Silicon Valley maverick worth an estimated $62 billion, watched the humbling defeat from a chase boat and later shook hands with his crew. He was joined by New Zealander Russell Coutts, the CEO of Oracle Team USA who suffered his first defeat in six America’s Cup finals. It was Coutts who first won the America’s Cup for the small sailing-mad island nation, skippering Team New Zealand to a five-race sweep of Dennis Conner off San Diego in 1995.
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 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 15-metre catamaran's vast "wing" sail and hydrofoils.
Italy’s Luna Rossa Challenge will be the Challenger of Record for the 36th America’s Cup, helping Team New Zealand 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.
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.
"It's hugely emotional for Kiwis," Mack Dalton, son of the New Zealand chief executive Grant Dalton, said.