Emirates Team New Zealand captured a little ‘luck of the Irish’ in defending the America’s Cup for the New Zealand Royal Yacht Squadron in defeating Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli decisively by 49 seconds while on match point to win 7-3.
The race started with a lot of drama and action, with the lead shifting back and forth early before ETNZ made a definitive pass in pressure, taking advantage of a righthand shift on the course to take a lead they wouldn’t surrender.
Italy made gains on the second leg downwind but unfortunately jibed at the gate under the wind shadow of the Kiwi boat and lost significant ground that they were never able to recapture.
ETNZ got an excellent start. The breeze shifted right immediately after they hit the line. The Kiwis took advantage of that shift, but Luna Rossa hung in there and regained the lead briefly before losing the first cross. From then on ETNZ shut the door, never giving the Italians a sniff of their blazingly fast foiling monohull.
The old saying goes that the faster boat always wins the America’s Cup. That is certainly the case again. Te Retuhai improved from race to race, and the Kiwis sailed better as the series continued and made no mistakes for the Italians to take advantage of.
As well as Luna Rossa sailed, the few little hiccups occurred at critical times, with little mistakes here and there. The Kiwis made them pay for each one!
As soon as ETNZ crossed the finish line Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli co-helmsman Jimmy Spithill offered immediate congratulations and well-wishes. “Full credit to Team New Zealand,” said Spithill. “They developed a fantastic package and are deservedly the champions. We all need to have a beer with those guys!”
“Watched on the telly from afar, but the team in spirit all the way,” weighed in New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. “Thank you, Team New Zealand. Through such a hard year, you provided us with such optimism and excitement. You made us proud!”
The NZ government has committed funding toward the next America’s Cup, on the condition that the next defense is held in New Zealand. Rumors run rampant about opportunities elsewhere. When pressed by NBC commentator Shirley Robertson, ETNZ’s CEO Grant Dalton was noncommittal in his response, coyly dodging it by answering, “You wouldn’t expect me to answer that at this moment, would you?”
Whispering aside, it has been all but confirmed that the Royal Yacht Squadron, represented by INEOS Team UK in AC 36, will be the next Challenger of Record.
“We have been getting messages from the Prime Minister to high school kids,” said Peter Burling, ETNZ helmsman. “It just means the world to us as a team. We have been learning all week, and today we really showed what this boat can do. So to win on home waters is something our entire team is incredibly proud of.”
Burling and his Olympic ‘wingman’ Blair Tuke burst onto the America’s Cup scene in 2013, winning the Red Bull Youth AC in San Francisco. Then they won in Bermuda in 2017 in dominant fashion. Now, with this win, he has cemented his legacy as one of the great skippers in the 170-year history of this event.
Italy acquitted themselves extremely well by keeping the Match even after the first three race days, which is unprecedented and defying the odds, with a new America’s Cup Class by not getting blown out at the outset. “We went out this morning determined to win two races and confident that we could do so,” said Max Sirena, Luna Rossa’s team director. “The boys on board were incredibly motivated and focused, and it wasn’t easy for them. They started well, but unfortunately right after the start the wind shifted 20 degrees and compromised the first downwind leg, and at that point the rest of the race.
“Obviously we aren’t happy with the final results. After you have won three races in the America’s Cup you start believing that you can do it. We have given our very best every day out on the water,” said Sirena. “I want to thank everyone in Italy who has supported us throughout these incredible nights. And I want to thank the team, who has worked with me for over three years. I thank Patrizio Bertelli for the opportunity he has given me. These three and a half years have been unforgettable.”
It has been quite a task for regatta director Iain Murray to pick out racecourses in extremely challenging and tricky weather conditions that were light for the most part, but also keeping the local fans engaged with viewing opportunities on water as well as on shore.
Racing was postponed for a short time at the start until the breezes could fill in throughout the racecourse. “We set the course in Area A, but brought it as far south as we could in order to try and make the best of the compression area for the wind in the Rangitoto Channel,” said Murray.
ETNZ has won the America’s Cup for New Zealand for the fourth time — technically, winning the Auld Mug twice and defending it twice. It was a spectacular achievement for the team and for the yacht club they represent, the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron. Another confirmation that in sailing in the Southern Hemisphere, a country of 5 million people can punch way above its weight.
Luna Rossa’s story is far from over. Sirena confirmed that Prada boss Bertelli is committed to carry the team forward. “It is not finished and with all this experience in the team we will try again,” said Luna Rossa co-helmsman Francesco Bruni. “Thank you Italia, grazie Italia.”
The celebrations began onboard after the Kiwis crossed the finish line and will continue on throughout the night after the prize-giving. “What a beauty! Time to enjoy it. To win the America’s Cup on home waters was unbelievable!” said Tuke.
After winning the Cup in Bermuda in 2017, Dalton wanted to create a new America’s Cup Class, to promote fast, close and exhilarating sailing. With the AC75 they have achieved this and more, changing the perception of yacht racing forever. It looks as if these foiling monohulls will be coming back for an encore in the 37th America’s Cup. Hopefully sooner rather than later.
We’ll have more in the April issue of Latitude 38, coming out on March 31.