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Cupdate: Kiwi Magic

It’s all over. Peter Burling, the youngest helmsmen to ever win the Cup, hoists the Auld Mug. We imagine that there are some happy sailors celebrating in New Zealand — where it’s early Tuesday morning as we write this. 

© 2017 Ricardo Pinto / ACEA

Team Emirates New Zealand has won the 35th America’s Cup, beating Oracle Team USA  7 races to 1, reclaiming the Auld Mug and now controlling the fate of the next contest.

It was a dominating performance — after a contentious few years following their heartbreaking 2013 loss, the Kiwis were quietly on a mission to bring the Cup back to Auckland. The last team to arrive in Bermuda, and the only team not to sign the "framework agreement" mandating the foiling-cat format, New Zealand seemed to have something to prove on and off the water.

After a five-day break and down 3 races to 0 in the first-to-seven Match, Oracle tweaked every inch of speed out of their boat, reportedly shedding some 90 kilograms of weight and looking noticeably faster, but a bit less in control of their maneuvering.

On Sunday, Team Emirates New Zealand hooked Oracle at the start, luffed up Team USA, then blasted away at the start and never looked back. They would go up 6-to-1 for match point yesterday, before sailing to victory today.

© 2017 Martin-Raget / ACEA

Saturday saw the best and closest racing of the entire Match. Oracle took the lead in Race 5 for the first time in the regatta as they crossed in front of the Kiwis on starboard, then lost the lead on the next tack — but kept it close. But Oracle made a few unforced errors: They were over early at the start, and were flagged for not keeping clear when New Zealand was dialing down on starboard (we’ll let the experts decide that one, but it seemed like a dodgy call). 

Team USA went on to make a few bad jibes and tacks, coming off their foils, putting both hulls in the water, and watching the Kiwis sail to a 4-0 lead. The commentators wondered if the boat had enough ‘oil’, or hydraulic pressure to effectively control their daggerboards, something that might have been affected with the changes to the boat.

The new, improved and lighter Oracle Team USA boat wasn’t enough to keep up with the Kiwis (we’d like to thank Ricardo Pinto, Giles Martin-Raget and the America’s Cup Event Authority for so many amazing images from Bermuda).

© 2017 Ricardo Pinto / ACEA

Race 6 was perhaps the best of the Match, with Oracle leading, losing the lead late, then gaining on one of the last weather legs, getting a dead spilt at the gate, and taking the race by 11 seconds (Burling, who does not come from a match-racing pedigree, later admitted that he should have covered Team USA more closely). 

With just one small victory, everyone seemed to be feeling the Oracle magic. "Is this the start of the comeback?" asked Artemis helmsman-turned-commentator Nathan Outterridge.

No, it wasn’t.

Larry Ellison and Jimmy Spithill shake hands following Oracle’s 7-to-1 defeat. We’ve always enjoyed watching Spithill battle it out on the race course — and in the pressroom (we’re convinced that he’s read The Art of War). We hope to see him either at the helm in four years’ time, or somewhere in the sailing spotlight. 

© 2017 Ricardo Pinto / ACEA

On Sunday, Team New Zealand was simply faster and flawless, and despite trailing at the first mark today, were in total control of the race, and really the entire regatta — even after suffering one of the most severe crashes in the history of the sport, the Kiwis seemed unshakable. 

We’re not sure what’s next for the America’s Cup, but we think Team New Zealand won a much-deserved victory, and look forward to seeing how the next event evolves in one of the great sailing nations in the world.

Thanks everyone for following our Cupdates, and be sure to pick up the July issue for a full analysis. And if you have any final thoughts, please let us know

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