SMOOTH SAIL­ING

New Zealand cata­ma­ran wins Amer­ica’s Cup in rout of U.S

The Washington Times Daily - - SPORTS - BY BERNIE WIL­SON

HAMIL­TON, BER­MUDA | Re­demp­tion for a gutty crew of five New Zealan­ders and one Aus­tralian came on the turquoise wa­ters of Ber­muda’s Great Sound, four years and 3,000 miles re­moved from one of the most bru­tal col­lapses in sports.

With a mix­ture of in­ge­nu­ity and na­tional pride, Emi­rates Team New Zealand got back up af­ter a gut punch for the ages and came to the Ber­muda Tri­an­gle and ripped the Amer­ica’s Cup right out of tech ty­coon Larry El­li­son’s hands.

“We’re on top of the world,” helmsman Peter Burl­ing said Mon­day af­ter steer­ing the Ki­wis’ in­cred­i­bly fast 50-foot foil­ing cata­ma­ran to the clinch­ing vic­tory in the 7-1 rout of two-time de­fend­ing cham­pion Or­a­cle Team USA.

As soon as the red-and-black Kiwi cat crossed the fin­ish line, the nor­mally re­served crew be­gan whoop­ing and jumped up onto the tram­po­line net­ting and into a joy­ful group hug.

Mag­nums of cham­pagne ar­rived and Burl­ing and crew­man Blair Tuke, who won Olympic gold and sil­ver medals to­gether, sprayed the crew. They later en­joyed beers to­gether be­fore go­ing ashore.

About an hour later, with the Amer­ica’s Cup set on a podium, Burl­ing and Ashby grabbed it to­gether and lifted it over their heads. As the sil­ver tro­phy was passed around, some team mem­bers poured cham­pagne into it and took swigs.

At 26, Burl­ing be­comes the youngest helmsman to win sail­ing’s great­est prize in a com­pe­ti­tion that dates to 1851.

The only non-Kiwi on the crew is Aus­tralian Glenn Ashby, 39, a mul­ti­hull wiz and Olympic sil­ver medal­ist who serves as skip­per and con­trols the space-age wing­sail.

There were no Amer­i­cans on Or­a­cle Team USA’s crew, which in­cluded five Aus­tralians and one from An­tigua.

El­li­son, the Sil­i­con Val­ley mav­er­ick worth an es­ti­mated $62 bil­lion, watched the hum­bling de­feat from a chase boat and later shook hands with his crew. He was joined by New Zealan­der Russell Coutts, the CEO of Or­a­cle Team USA who suf­fered his first de­feat in six Amer­i­cas Cup fi­nals. It was Coutts who first won the Amer­ica’s Cup for the small sail­ing­mad is­land na­tion, skip­per­ing Team New Zealand to a five-race sweep of Den­nis Conner off San Diego in 1995.

Team New Zealand started this match with a neg­a­tive point be­cause Or­a­cle won the qual­i­fiers, forc­ing the Ki­wis to win eight races to re­turn the Auld Mug to the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron in Auck­land for the first time since 2003.

It was sweet atone­ment for the Ki­wis. In 2013 on San Fran­cisco Bay, Team New Zealand, then led by Dean Barker, reached match point at 8-1. Or­a­cle then staged one of the big­gest come­backs in sports, win­ning eight straight races to re­tain the Auld Mug.

Ashby is the only mem­ber of the sail­ing crew who re­turned from that col­lapse.

“It was ab­so­lutely bru­tal for the team. It was a hard pill to swal­low,” Ashby said. “For my­self and a lot of the other guys that are with the team this time around, it is a great re­demp­tion and just a re­lief to right the wrongs of the last cam­paign. We ob­vi­ously learned a lot from that cam­paign.

“For all the guys in­volved, I think there will be a lot of proud yachties from New Zealand, a lot of proud Ki­wis today with what’s been achieved over the past few years.”

Thou­sands of sleepy New Zealan­ders got up at 5 a.m. to watch the race on tele­vi­sion.

“It’s David and Go­liath. We beat the big­gest and the best in the world, so that’s just fab­u­lous,” said Roger Fo­ley, who watched with dozens of oth­ers at the Royal Port Ni­chol­son Yacht Club in the cap­i­tal, Welling­ton.

Many felt re­lief as well as ela­tion af­ter the heart­break of the 2013 cam­paign.

The na­tion’s Prime Min­is­ter, Bill English, posted a short video of him­self cel­e­brat­ing at home: “We are so proud of you,” he wrote on Twit­ter.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS PHO­TO­GRAPHS

Emi­rates Team New Zealand (top in­set) helmsman Peter Burl­ing (right) and team­mate Glenn Ashby cel­e­brate with the Amer­ica’s Cup on Mon­day. Or­a­cle Team USA skip­per Jimmy Sp­ithill (bot­tom in­set) is con­soled by Sil­i­con Val­ley bil­lion­aire Larry El­li­son af­ter Team New Zealand clinched the vic­tory in Ber­muda’s Great Sound.

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