Emirates Team New Zealand win decider
Emirates Team New Zealand replaced Land Rover BAR at the top of the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series pecking order in Gothenburg yesterday.
Team New Zealand came from behind to win the fourth and final race that left them four points clear of overnight leaders Oracle Team USA.
Land Rover BAR placed third, a further two points adrift of Oracle, who looked to be in control until they were undone by a double whammy on the first beat.
The unbridled joy among the victorious Team New Zealand demonstrated just how much victory meant to them, particularly for Peter Burling, the challenger’s helmsman, who appears to have made a seamless transition at this level.
“I’m definitely stoked to go there and take the win today,” Burling, the multiple world Moth and 49er champion, said. “For us, as a relatively new crew, to be able to come up with the goods was exactly what we were aiming at.”
Fans were left on the edge of their seats as the four-race series drew to an exciting climax with Team New Zealand, Land Rover BAR and Oracle Team USA in a three-way tie at the top of the leaderboard heading into the final race.
Oracle led the fleet on the short reach to the first mark and extended their advantage after making considerable gains on the first run to the bottom gate.
But the defender’s hopes all but ended on the next leg when they relinquished the lead after getting on the wrong end of a wind shift and then lost further ground after sailing into spoiled air coming from SoftBank Team Japan’s wing-sail trying to cover Team New Zealand.
Burling and company managed to take full advantage, sailing under Oracle and Team Japan on the layline to the marker and led the rest of the way.
Sailing around a tight course littered with holes in light breezes presented a challenge for the teams. Team New Zealand, though, seemed to have things all figured out.
“It was a tricky afternoon, but our guys had a forecast for it being light like this, so we’ve been preparing for it,” Burling added.
“We just kept the boat in more breeze than anybody else to keep it going fast and minimising manoeuvres. That’s obviously really tricky sailing in that lighter stuff.
“We’re really happy to put together two solid races today and to perform under pressure in that last one is very satisfying.”
Artemis Racing won yesterday’s first race by a landslide, with team New Zealand taking second and Land Rover BAR third to make things interesting at the top.
Back-to-back victories on the opening day saw Oracle go into the final races with a slim lead over Land Rover BAR. But in the end the title would elude the defender who struggled in the light air.
“We were having a very difficult time speed-wise and with our technique in the lighter winds,” Jimmy Spithill, the Oracle helmsman, said.
Sir Ben Ainslie, team principal and helmsman of Land Rover BAR, also endured a day he would rather quickly put behind him.
“It wasn’t one of our best days today,” Ainslie said. “It’s frustrating, but that’s the nature of the sport.”
Land Rover BAR slipped to second in the World Series behind Team New Zealand after two stages. Oracle Team USA remain in third.
STANDINGS (after 2 events)
Emirates Team New Zealand 72
Land Rover BAR 65
Oracle Team USA 64
SoftBank Team Japan 56
Artemis Racing 53
Groupama Team France 50