Burling warns there is more to come
Emirates Team New Zealand broke through the next great barrier in sailing as they cruised to victory over Groupama Team France in the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup Qualifiers yesterday.
The Kiwis spent 100 per cent of the race “flying” across the water, with that mark long considered the holy grail of this style of America’s Cup Class boat.
The display followed on from an earlier effort in their first race, against SoftBank Team Japan, when they managed a “measly” 99.6 per cent flight time. Judges apparently ruled that the 0.4 per cent came when New Zealand splashed down a fraction early as they crossed the finish line.
Teams have claimed to be doing “dry laps” for a while in practice, but this was the first time it has occurred in a competitive race.
Still, Peter Burling, the New Zealand helmsman, was not exactly ecstatic with the achievement, saying it should be considered “a given” that teams would be able to do it.
“It is something we have been trying to do for a long time,” he said. “We’ve definitely done dry laps at home and I thought we were pretty close in that first race.
“All the teams are incredibly close to doing that dry lap, but for ourselves it should just be a given. Later on in the event, you will see everyone doing that every race.”
Burling was far happier about his team’s continued progression, which has led to them climbing to the top of the standings to become favourites to ultimately challenge Oracle Team USA for the America’s Cup in two weeks’ time.
Victories over Team France and Team Japan were all the more impressive because at no stage did New Zealand look in anything other than total control.
“This has been a great learning opportunity,” Burling said. “We’ve come relatively late and I think we have sailed a total of 12 races in these boats. It feels like every time we go out we sail better and we learn a lot.”
The challenger series has allowed teams to work on their techniques, while adding an extra level of excitement to the event. Worryingly for the rest, Burling believes the best is yet to come from New Zealand.
“It [the Qualifiers] has been a great opportunity to refine our processes, check in with how we’re going whilst allowing enough time to improve a lot,” he said. “We definitely feel like we’ve got a lot more to come and we’re really excited with how it’s playing out so far.”