New Zealand seal America’s Cup victory over the United States
Peter Burling becomes youngest helmsman to secure sailing’s biggest prize
Emirates Team New Zealand helmsman Peter Burling celebrates as he sprays team-mates after defeating Oracle Team USA in race nine to win the America’s Cup in Hamilton, Bermuda. Photograph: Mike Segar/Reuters
New Zealand won the America’s Cup on Monday, almost white-washing reining champions the United States with a revolutionary boat and a new superstar sailor to avenge a humbling defeat four years ago.
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 Jimmy Spithill, who won the cup in 2010 aged 30 and was hoping for a third successive victory for the syndicate bankrolled by Oracle founder Larry Ellison.
Burling was congratulated by his jubilant team-mates and support crew after their 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 50-foot (15-metre) catamaran to yet another win over Spithill.
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 USA by beating four other “challengers”, using cycling sailors known as “cyclors” to provide pedal power to control their foiling catamaran’s vast “wing” sail and hydrofoils.
The New Zealand crew have been on a mission to wipe out the hurt inflicted on the sports-mad country by the team who in 2013 turned an 8-1 deficit against New Zealand into a 9-8 victory.
“We’re disappointed obviously but first of all full credit to Team New Zealand, what a series,” Spithill said. “They made fewer mistakes. You really have to give credit to what an incredible job they have done . . . they sailed really well.”
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.