Sailing: New zeal lifts New Zealand to America's Cup win

Team New Zealand celebrate after upsetting defending champions United States 7-1 to take the America's Cup on Monday, putting to rest their devastating 2013 loss to the Americans.
Team New Zealand celebrate after upsetting defending champions United States 7-1 to take the America's Cup on Monday, putting to rest their devastating 2013 loss to the Americans.PHOTO: REUTERS

HAMILTON (Bermuda) • New Zealand won the America's Cup on Monday, laying to rest the ghost of a stunning 2013 collapse with a dominant victory over Oracle Team USA.

The gritty Kiwi challengers, with 26-year-old Peter Burling at the helm, downed the defenders 7-1 in the first-to-seven-points series.

"We're all ecstatic about what we have managed to achieve and we are on top of the world," said Burling, after he supplanted Team USA skipper Jimmy Spithill as the youngest helmsman to claim the oldest international trophy in sport.

Spithill was 30 when he steered the USA to victory in 2010, and he propelled their comeback from 1-8 down to a 9-8 triumph over New Zealand four years ago.

Glenn Ashby remembers the events in San Francisco, where he was on the wrong end of the result.

"A few years ago, it was absolutely brutal for the team, and it was a hard pill to swallow," said the 39-year-old New Zealand skipper, the lone survivor from the 2013 debacle. "For the sailors and all the other guys who are with the team, it's a great redemption, and I guess a relief to right the wrongs of the last campaign."

New Zealand team chief Grant Dalton revealed that the crushing defeat sparked the design revolution that propelled them to victory in the 35th edition.

"After San Francisco we had a pretty brutal debrief. We came up with 20 points. One of those things was we had to invest in technology on a pretty limited budget," he said, adding that they had to "out-think" Team USA - backed by tech billionaire Larry Ellison - since they could not out-spend them.

Innovations included a cycle-powered grinding system providing hydraulic power - an idea that led to a cascade of benefits.

Not only was leg power more potent, the cyclists' hunched-over posture was more aerodynamic, and with a crew of six, their hands were free to attend to other tasks.

Ashby trimmed the massive fixed-wing sail with a video game-style console that gave him more precise control than a traditional set-up.

Dalton revealed that the team had to nurse their boat through the entire regatta after suffering major damage on the first day of racing in the challenger series.

"Full credit to Team New Zealand. What a series. They really made fewer mistakes and they fully deserve it so hats off to them," Spithill said.

The champagne showers celebrating New Zealand's win were barely over when Italian syndicate Luna Rossa was confirmed as challenger of record for the next edition.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 28, 2017, with the headline 'New zeal lifts New Zealand to America's Cup win'. Print Edition | Subscribe