Hamilton - New Zealand won the America's Cup on Monday,
laying to rest the ghost of a stunning 2013 collapse with a crushing 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," Burling said. "It's going to
be a good night."
Burling 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 remarkable comeback from 1-8 down to a 9-8 triumph over
New Zealand four years ago.
"To be able to win this event at such a young age is an
unreal feeling," Burling said. "However, I'm just a tiny part of a
massive team and it is incredible to be able to reward the hard work of those
hundreds of people who have supported us, not only here but back home in New
Zealand as well."
In fact, New Zealand needed eight race wins to get the
victory, having started at minus-one thanks to the USA's topping the standings
in round-robin qualifying.
But no obstacle was too much for Burling and his young crew
on an innovative catamaran that featured a radical cycle-powered grinding
system to power its hydraulics.
The Kiwi crew included Simon van Velthooven, who won track
cycling bronze at the 2012 London Olympics, and Blair Tuke, who teamed with
Burling to win 49er gold at the Rio Games last year.
Veteran Glenn Ashby - the lone hold-over from the San
Francisco debacle - served as skipper and wing trimmer.
"A few years ago, it was absolutely brutal for the
team, and it was a hard pill to swallow," Ashby said. "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.
"To Jimmy and the boys," Ashby added, "it's
nice to share it around."
Team New Zealand nearly folded after the heartbreak in San
They had their struggles upon arrival in Bermuda, including
a spectacular capsize in challenger racing that left their shore crew fighting
to make repairs and keep them in the competition.
But after dispatching British legend Ben Ainslie's Land
Rover BAR and Sweden's Artemis Racing in the knockout stages to book a rematch
with the USA, New Zealand were in dominant form.
The challengers came into Monday with a 6-1 lead and in the
ninth race of the series Burling lived up to his "iceman" reputation.
Beaten to the first mark by Team USA, New Zealand seized the
lead on the second leg and sailed confidently on to win by 55 seconds.
New Zealand had the defenders on the run since the final
series opened more than a week earlier.
They stunned Team USA, backed by tech billionaire Larry
Ellison, by sweeping all four races of the opening weekend, leaving the
defenders scrambling to find answers in the five lay days before racing
It did seem the USA had found some extra speed when the
teams split two races on Saturday, but the writing was on the wall after
Burling and his crew out-sailed the USA in two dominant victories on Sunday.
"Full credit to Team New Zealand. What a series. They
really made fewer mistakes and they fully deserve it so our hat's off to
them," Spithill said.
New Zealand claimed the Cup for the third time, after
victories with Black Magic in 1995 and 2000.
Only four countries - the USA, Australia, New Zealand and
Switzerland - have ever won the coveted trophy, named for the schooner America
which won a race round the Isle of Wight in 1851 that was the birth of
yachting's most prestigious competition.
New Zealand's victory lends intrigue to the future of the
Cup. Tradition holds that the defenders set the rules for the next edition.
New Zealand conspicuously declined to sign on to a framework
announced earlier this year by Team USA and four other syndicates that called
for the regatta to stick with similar class foiling catamarans and to be
contested every two years.
Team New Zealand chief executive said he agreed with some
aspects of the framework, and would hammer out other details with Luna Rossa,
the Italian syndicate announced as challenger of record shortly after the race.