The Italian racing boat chased its rival from New Zealand in the America’s Cup for days. Sometimes the Italians sought an advantage by cutting in as close to safety as possible. Other times, they moved as far away as the track allowed, seeking an advantage by giving the rival a wide berth.
Both teams have millions of dollars at their disposal. Both teams had expert teams. But as in most sailing races, the outcome eventually became a simple fact: the boat from New Zealand was faster.
“Sometimes,” said Jimmy Spithill, the co-driver of the Italians, “it felt like we were taking a knife to a gunfire.”
Team New Zealand retained the America’s Cup on Wednesday and chased away Italian challenger Luna Rossa to pick up the biggest prize in Auckland’s home waters. The victory was the second in a row for a syndicate representing the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron, and the fourth victory in the final since 1995 for a team from New Zealand.
It was also the second consecutive victory for Team New Zealand’s 30-year-old helmsman Peter Burling, who added another title in a CV that already includes nine world championships and Olympic gold and silver medals.
“It means the world to us and the team,” Burling told Radio New Zealand, the national public broadcaster.
New Zealand’s victory in the race, two days after seizing the momentum in a tough competition, took advantage of its quick advantage to claim a rugby victory on Monday. It won again Tuesday and Wednesday, when it became the first time to score seven wins.
The race on Wednesday started evenly, with the two boats now struggling. But slightly better hitting power and slightly better speed gave New Zealand a seven-second lead at the end of the first game. Since then, New Zealand has slowly and methodically expanded its advantage. Every attempt by Luna Rossa to close the gap was in vain.
The final margin was 46 seconds. The final score in the competition was 7-3.
The victory of the Kiwis ended one of the most unusual editions of the America’s Cup, which was first contested in 1852. This year’s races took place without their usual crowd of visitors, many of whom were kept away by strict coronavirus restrictions New Zealand borders effectively closed to non-citizens. The racing schedule also had to be amended several times to accommodate strict – and changing – closing rules that sometimes resulted in delays in the competition.
The participants were also not like those who preceded them. This year’s America’s Cup was contested by a new class of boat: sleek, 75-foot foil monohulls that, when lifted out of the water and riding on their spider-like foils above the waves, were capable of speeds of up to 60 miles to reach. an hour. The boats did not cut through the water as much as above. And no one has done it better than Team New Zealand.
But there were subtle distinctions that only the races could reveal. The Kiwis emphasized the speed in the design of their racing boat, with a flatter hull and smaller foils that reduce drag through the water. The larger foils of Luna Rossa offered advantages in stability and mobility, and the Italians used weeks of elimination racing to hone the tactics they used in the final. But speed seems to be the difference, and Team New Zealand simply had more of it.
“Well-deserved champions,” Spithill said of his opponents after the series ended.
Yet he admitted that he had some regrets.
“I believe we have left some victories on the table,” he told reporters. “But it’s sport, and I really believe the better team has won.”
During the first six races of the finals, the mantra was simple: win the start, win the race. In each of those races, the team that was first over the starting line was also the first to reach the finish line. The largely drama-free races showcased the skills of the teams and the accuracy of their boats, but it also led to an unwelcome accusation: that the final round was boring.
That changed Monday. Team New Zealand changed from the wind and withdrew the speed that many suspect it had not yet fully shown, to win consecutive races, breaking the tie and leading the team 5-3. The Kiwis added a fourth consecutive victory Tuesday, and suddenly the price for years of planning and millions of dollars’ investment feels close enough to touch.
“This team has been in this position before,” Burling said after winning the seven New Zealand trophies within one win. “We just want to keep improving, keep moving forward and we’m very excited about another race.”
Light winds forced the teams to abandon the second race on Tuesday, when New Zealand were ready to clinch its triumph, but it only slowed down the delay of many people in the time. Even when Luna Rossa lamented another ‘painful’ defeat on Tuesday, his co-driver Francesco Bruni found no fault in his team’s performances.
Team New Zealand, he apparently said, was simply faster.
“I think we honestly did a fantastic race,” Bruni said. “No remorse.”
Mike Ives contribution made.