For the second time in history, the America's Cup is headed to New Zealand after a comprehensive victory over Oracle Team USA in the 35th Match.The old adage says that the faster boat always wins the Auld Mug. Team New Zealand definitely had the superior design package, especially in the light winds in which the final series was sailed. But these high-tech cats are difficult to sail and a disaster is only one mistake away. So supreme credit must go to Peter Burling, Glenn Ashby, Blair Tuke and the "cyclors" who powered the systems. They were calm, confident and sailed superbly to deservedly take the ultimate prize in sailing.
Today began with glorious weather and a breeze of around 8.5 knots, a range that favoured the Kiwis. They were on match point, leading defenders Oracle Team USA 6-1 in the first-to-seven series, and watchers waited with anticipation to see what, if anything, Jimmy Spithill and his predominantly Australian crew could do.
The answer was very little. Dominated in the starts by his younger rival until now, Spithill put his boat in a good position during the pre-start and had enough speed to break the inside overlap and lead around the reach mark for only the second time in eight races. But when the Kiwis gybed for the first time and sped away with two knots more boat speed, the writing was well and truly on the wall.
In this crazy world of apparent wind sailing, even when running downwind the boat in front puts wing wash on to its chasing rival. Oracle fell further behind and NZ had the luxury of throwing in a couple of extra tacks at the beginning of the first beat, so they could cover the enemy.
With nearly a knot better VMG upwind, the only danger to the Kiwis was that Oracle tactician Tom Slingsby would find a big wind shift. Burling took this out of the equation with old-fashioned match race covering tactics. Every time Oracle tacked, TNZ covered. It cost them some of their lead, but they had plenty of that to spare.
Sure enough, near the top of the course, a slight wind shift did lift the American boat to within 100 metres, but by then New Zealand was lining up the layline. Flawless in their manoeuvres, they turned downwind and ran away from Oracle.
Both boats were quiet as an air of inevitability settled over the course. On the second beat, Oracle again went looking for the miracle wind shift but the Kiwis covered every move. They ran away again down wind and crossed the finish line 55 seconds in front.
Finally Burling, who has been dour and repetitive in his interviews, relaxed, smiled and enjoyed the moment. He had become the youngest ever winning America's Cup helmsman and paid tribute to his sailing crew and the shore team that had put the boat back together after a pitchpole in the preliminary series.
"We're on top of the world," he told the TV commentators. "It's been three years of hard work. Yeah, we're all on top of the world. It's going to be a good night."
Understandably, the mood on Oracle was sombre as they crossed the line to applause from their Kiwi rivals. An emotional Jimmy Spithill was gracious in defeat. "We're disappointed, obviously," he said. "But all credit to New Zealand. They made fewer mistakes than we did. It's an incredible job they've done."
More analysis will be done over the next few days, but the simple facts are that the Kiwis sailed the faster boat extremely well. There are reports that the cycling system on Aotearoa, the NZ boat, put 30% more pressure into the hydraulic systems.
This allows a very complex and highly efficient wing control system to operate. Glenn Ashby trimmed the wing without a winch or sheets. It was all done with an X-box system that gave fingertip control of the all-important twist at the upper edge.
The Kiwis also had a very different foil design to the other teams, with a marked upturn that appeared to give much better performance in light airs.
The faster boat has won the Cup yet again. And with Glenn Ashby the only member of the sailing team who is over 30 years of age, it has been a triumph of youth over experience.
We now wait to see whether the Kiwis will retain the same or similar format for the 36th Match in Auckland in two, three or four years time, or whether CEO Grant Dalton will sacrifice the advantage New Zealand has over the other teams simply to spite his mortal enemy, Sir Russell Coutts, who put this concept together.
- Roger McMillan
Read more at http://www.mysailing.com.au/america-s-cup/new-zealand-wins-america-s-cup-with-another-flawless-performance#54UF1D8MZTfjSZKr.99