How Burl­ing pulled a fast one on Sp­ithill

Marlborough Express - - SPORT - DUN­CAN JOHN­STONE

Team New Zealand ace Peter Burl­ing was un­der or­ders to bluff his abil­i­ties in the start­ing box be­fore his de­mo­li­tion of Jimmy Sp­ithill in the Amer­ica’s Cup match.

It proved a mas­ter­stroke. Burl­ing’s ap­par­ent rapid de­vel­op­ment in this key area was cen­tral to Team New Zealand’s 7-1 win over Or­a­cle Team USA to win back the Auld Mug in Ber­muda.

Sp­ithill’s ag­gres­sion and rep­u­ta­tion as the best starter in the busi­ness al­ways loomed as a worry for the Ki­wis head­ing into the match, es­pe­cially given Burl­ing’s patchy start­ing form dur­ing the round-robin phase of the re­gatta.

There were signs of im­prove­ment from the 26-year-old Burl­ing in the Chal­lengers fi­nal against Swe­den’s Artemis Rac­ing but noth­ing like the dom­i­nance he sud­denly dis­played to de­stroy Sp­ithill at his own game.

Burl­ing won the starts 7-2 (re­mem­ber there were ac­tu­ally nine races af­ter the Ki­wis were forced to en­ter the match at -1).

Team New Zealand prin­ci­pal Mat­teo de Nora re­vealed the team had pur- posely hid­den Burl­ing’s start­ing box tal­ents.

‘‘He was al­ways stronger dur­ing the start than what he was show­ing,’’ de Nora said in an in­ter­view with Italian news­pa­per La Stampa. ‘‘He was told not to be too im­petu­ous.’’

With a fast boat, the Ki­wis had the lux­ury of reg­u­larly beat­ing op­po­nents in a game of catchup dur­ing the open­ing stages of the re­gatta, hid­ing Bur- ling’s true tal­ents.

But they were also ea­ger to max­imise a re­mark­able statis­tic for the fi­nal.

Team New Zealand’s boat never lost a race once it got to the open­ing mark first.

The team’s coaches high­lighted this as an area to con­cen­trate on for Burl­ing, whose match-rac­ing ex­pe­ri­ence was vir­tu­ally non-ex­is­tent be­fore head­ing to Ber­muda with his stun­ning Olympic suc­cess based on fleet rac­ing in the 49er skiffs.

The gifted Burl­ing showed his abil­ity to learn quickly as he mas­tered the arts of the cat-and-mouse plays in the two min­utes lead­ing up to the start­ing gun in Cup races.

Burl­ing’s coup de grace of Sp­ithill came in the penul­ti­mate race when he bril­liantly over­lapped and hooked the dou­ble-Cup win­ner, leav­ing the Amer­i­can boat stalled as ‘‘Pis­tol’’ Pete pulled the trig­ger and ac­cel­er­ated off for an in­cred­i­ble 14s ad­van­tage over the start line.

A bit like the nev­erend­ing up­dates of the re­mark­able Kiwi boat, it was a case of keep­ing a sail­ing trick up their sleeve for the money mo­ment of the Cup fi­nal.

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