New Zealand and The America's Cup

By beating Swedish America's Cup entrant 'Artemis' 2 days ago in the final qualifying yacht race, New Zealand has again earned the right to challenge US holder 'Oracle' for 'The Auld Mug' the world's oldest sporting trophy. The final starts in Bermuda on Saturday and ends June 27. It's a first to seven series and will no doubt include intrigue, twists, politics and a great deal of mind games!

Team New Zealand has a proud history in competing for the America's Cup. In 1995 and 2000 under the legendary leadership of Sir Peter Blake they became the first team from a country outside the United States to win and successfully defend the trophy.

Many will remember the last challenge, mounted four years ago when New Zealand challenged the US boat 'Oracle', with the American boat coming back from 8-1 down to win 9-8. 

Unsurprisingly, most New Zealanders have spent the intervening years trying to forget! 

Now the excitement in New Zealand is mounting again as they look to bounce back from the nightmare of 2013.

Americas-cup-2.jpg#asset:5450

Here's part of a report by Chris Museler in yesterdays NY Times in which he discusses the Louis Vuitton America's Cup Challenge series that has just concluded and the finals to be played out in the coming 2 weeks.

"...This year, the Kiwis have a new driver, the 26-year-old Peter Burling. Asked if he was nervous before Monday’s deciding race, Burling said: “I get excited for days like today. I’m a proud Kiwi. There are so many Kiwis who have come over here to support us, and we’re a lot better team today.”

Fans with New Zealand flags draped over their shoulders or held high on makeshift poles greeted Burling and his team as they sailed past after their win. The crew grabbed cold beers, took off their life jackets and huddled together on the weather hull of their black and red catamaran. 

With the wing trimmer Glenn Ashby the oldest member at 39, the team sees youth as a key to its success. “They are kids on board, and for most of them, this is their first America’s Cup,” said Max Sirena, New Zealand’s technical adviser. “Bringing in young people is fresh air and fresh ideas, but you still need the experience of sailors like Glenn.”

Ashby, an Australian and the only non-New Zealander aboard, is a multiple world champion and Olympic medalist in catamarans and was the wing trimmer for the same team in 2013. “The good thing with these guys is that they all look at the same things I do,” he said after the awards ceremony. “We’ve all sailed high-performance boats, and they know what makes a fast setup. Our communication is fairly minimal.”

america-cup-4.jpg#asset:5451

“There’s an ‘X’ factor with New Zealand skipper Peter Burling,” said John Bertrand, the Australian skipper who helped end the United States’ unbeaten run in the America’s Cup in 1983. “What he has achieved in the Olympics and the Cup, he’s a phenomenon. It’s a rare, instinctive, natural talent.”

The Cup is known for being as much a technology race as a sailing race. Though the AC50's in use this year have nearly identical hulls and wings, the foil designs are open to interpretation. And since the boats are sometimes lifted off the water for 100 percent of the race, fractional changes in shape and flexibility can be the difference.

americas-cup-3.jpg#asset:5452

Beyond the tools of wings and foils used to fly, the teams have designed human-powered hydraulic control systems to adjust these key elements. 

Four of the six crew are needed to spin handles — or pedals, in the case of Team New Zealand - leaving the strenuous tasks of actually sailing the boat to the driver and wing trimmer.

The 'Artemis' tactician Ian Percy said Monday that 'Emirates New Zealand' and 'Oracle' Team USA were evenly matched for the Cup finals, which start Saturday in Great Sound.

“You can’t assume anything,” Percy said. “There aren’t going to be enough speed differences to determine the race. It’s so complex and about attention to detail.”

americas-cup-7.jpg#asset:5453

Adding a little "spice" to the contest this year, from the New Zealand perspective, is the question of crewing. Because four of the six first-choice on-board 'Oracle' crew are Australians (New Zealand's arch sporting rival)!

NBC will broadcast the final races live on North American TV starting June 17 at 10:00 am PDT.

The heartland of New Zealand sailing is the city of Auckland, also known as "The City of Sails" and you can explore the the harbor on most of our New Zealand itineraries , like this favorite, the 14 day Great New Zealand Self Drive.

Lindsay Barron

Lindsay Barron • Jun 13, 2017