The sweet taste of success

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  • Cup of joy: Emirates Team New Zealand crew get into the swing of the celebrations on the podium (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

    Cup of joy: Emirates Team New Zealand crew get into the swing of the celebrations on the podium (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

The 35th America’s Cup is history. Emirates Team New Zealand went 8-1 in the Match and won the Cup 7-1 from Oracle Team USA. No doubt about it, the best team have won.

“We were outside of the square,” said Emirates Team New Zealand chief executive Grant Dalton. “We knew we had to push out there. We had no restrictions on design and we’ve done some things that were revolutionary for the sport.

“We had to invest in technology and invest in the [young] people coming up in the sport,“ including Peter Burling and Glenn Ashby.

Then in an interruption when team principal Matteo de Nora’s mobile phone rang and Dalton quipped with a smile, “That would be Russell [Sir Russell Coutts, chief executive of the America’s Cup Event Authority].”

After some laughter from the press centre audience, Dalton finished his comment: “We had to invest in the right people who knew what they were doing.”

He invested in Burling and his young crew. Burling wasn’t the youngest helmsman in America’s Cup history — that was a 20-year-old Jimmy Spithill — but he was the youngest winning helmsman and perhaps one of the best.

The Kiwis’ leader, who has pushed their effort since 1987, set the tone for the team — focus on winning and work hard to do it.

“It’s been an amazing journey after four years of hard work,” skipper Glenn Ashby said. “We came here a little later than the other teams and we’d like to come back to Bermuda for a visit. Looking forward we are very lucky to be such a part of this amazing sport.”

So, let’s look back down the road at this amazing, decisive win, which was four years in the making.

Oracle Team USA, winners of the 34th America’s Cup with an amazing comeback in San Francisco, made the critical choices. They chose Bermuda as the venue, they chose the boats, they chose the timing and they chose the format. They gave themselves the possibility of earning an extra point going into the America’s Cup Match.

Along with Oracle, four teams chose to move operations to Bermuda to train on the Great Sound. Artemis Racing came first. They were joined by SoftBank Team Japan, Land Rover BAR and Groupama Team France. Team New Zealand came to the party last.

New Zealand chose to train over the winter — their summer — at home and work somewhat in secret; out of the media eye until they launched their America’s Cup Class 50-footer. They were sailing at home in light-air summer conditions that were much like June in Bermuda. The five teams in Bermuda were training in unusually cool and blustery weather.

Aotearoa, as their yacht is known in the Land of the White Cloud, had pedals. The guys providing the “juice” had their hands free to do other jobs: trim the sails, adjust the foils and rudder, and sometimes look outside the boat. That was a radical choice that set the pace for their incredible run for the “Auld Mug”.

They trained in New Zealand for a little more than a month, then loaded up their sponsor’s Emirates 747 Cargo giant and flew north to Bermuda.

On April 10, hundreds of curious Bermudians and some opposition spies lined the airport fence to watch the unloading. Within two weeks, the Kiwis were out on the Great Sound.

What was impressive from their first days in Bermuda was their great quickness through tacks and gybes, and not just their quickness. The Kiwis were flying high on their foils and they were so smooth. Those who watched knew the “Kiwi Magic” had come to Bermuda. This team had something special. They would be a force for Oracle to face in the final days.

As of yesterday morning, Oracle faced six match points, a must-win in every race to stay alive. It had been a day to the month when racing started back on May 27, when they faced Groupama Team France in the first race of the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup Qualifiers.

Team New Zealand were the top challengers in the Qualifiers with an 8-2 record. They went 5-2 over Land Rover BAR in the Challenger Play-off semi-finals and then won 5-2 against Artemis in to earn the challenger slot in the Play-off finals. That was 24 — 18 wins and six losses — to get to the match.

New Zealand then won the first race in the Match to recoup the “-1” they started with. Then they won seven out of the next eight races. That brings them to a total of 26 wins and seven losses.

What was impressive was that, after the five-day mid-match hiatus in racing, during which Oracle made speed-improving adjustments to foils, rudders and sailing technique, they were able to keep control by never making the same mistake twice. They recognised their errors and corrected them immediately.

In match six on Saturday, the one they lost, they came up short because they didn’t follow a basic rules of match racing: cover your competition.

Get ahead and stay between them and the next mark.

On Sunday, there was no doubt who was in control. The Kiwis never lost two races in a row all month. Burling and company learnt their lessons well. They dominated the starts, got ahead and then they match-raced to perfection.

Congratulations are in order for all of the Kiwi team, for the dream they had and perfect execution in making the dream come true. The end is here for Oracle and the beginning of a new America’s Cup cycle moves on to New Zealand. The America’s Cup, presented by Louis Vuitton, is now on its way to a new home at the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron in Auckland.

Detailed plans for the 36th America’s Cup defence will be announced in the next few weeks. However, Grant Dalton read a statement about the Challenger of Record for the next America’s Cup issued by commodores Steve Mair, Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron and Agostino Randazzo Randazzo, of Circolo della Vela Sicilia.

“The Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron has accepted a challenge from Circolo della Vela Sicilia, which was received immediately upon the victory of Emirates Team New Zealand in the last race of the 35th America’s Cup. As the first challenger, Circolo della Vela Sicilia will be the Challenger of Record for the 36th America’s Cup and its representative team will be Luna Rossa Challenge.

“RNZYS and its representative team, Emirates Team New Zealand, look forward to working with CVS and Luna Rossa Challenge to create an exciting future for the event by combining innovation with the traditional sporting values of the America’s Cup.”

The game is on.

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Published Jun 27, 2017 at 8:00 am (Updated Jun 26, 2017 at 11:51 pm)

The sweet taste of success

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