Match point to Emirates Team New Zealand
35th America’s Cup presented by Louis Vuitton
Day four of the America’s Cup Match, presented by Louis Vuitton, belonged firmly to Peter Burling and the New Zealand team who comfortably won the two scheduled races of the day, races seven and eight of the final stage of the 35th America’s Cup.
Having won race six on Saturday, Oracle Team USA went into the second Sunday of the America’s Cup Match, presented by Louis Vuitton, looking to gain more ground on their Kiwi rivals, but the New Zealand juggernaut had found its pace again and was unbeatable in similar weather conditions to day three, Saturday 24th June.
The leaderboard now stands at 6-1 to Emirates Team New Zealand who need only one more race to take the ‘Auld Mug’ back to their home country.
“We were absolutely delighted with how the day went,” said Peter Burling after claiming back-to-back victories to take his team to the verge of their first America’s Cup success since 2000.
“We were disappointed to give away a race yesterday but we certainly made up for it today.
“We’ve got a fantastic team and you can see that out on the water. We’ve all got the same understanding of what we want to achieve and we are all on the same page.
“Despite the lead we won’t get ahead of ourselves because we still know we have a job to do and it’s still an incredibly tough ask.
“A lot has been said about what happened four years ago but I love the pressure. If you want to come all the way to Bermuda and win the America’s Cup then you have to deal with immense pressure. As a group we feel the pressure is bringing the best out of us and I think we’ve more than answered those questions.”
For Oracle Team USA, this is familiar ground, and nobody would write off the Defenders who so memorably staged one of, if not the, greatest comebacks in sport when they pulled back from an 8-1 deficit to win the 2013 America’s Cup 9-8 against the same rivals.
“They [Emirates Team New Zealand] sailed better than us today and made a lot fewer mistakes,” conceded Jimmy Spithill on what was a disappointing day for Oracle Team USA.
“They deserved to win both of the races because we clearly made far too many mistakes out there. We’re in a tough situation now and all we can really do is take this one race at a time.
“The plan certainly wasn’t to be in this position again, I can assure you of that, but we are here now so it is up to all of us to respond and react.
“You wouldn’t have been surprised to see a bit of a bad reaction out there today but the boys kept fighting and that’s great. Potentially, in a situation like this you could see a team split apart, but when we got ashore everyone pulled together because we know this isn’t over.
“I still think we can win races with this boat. We’ve proven we can races against these guys if we sail well but if we make too many mistakes like we did today then we won’t win races.”
Having made changes to their boat since the opening weekend Jimmy Spithill was asked if there might also be changes to personnel on the boat ahead of day five, to which he replied, “Anything is on the table. Every single team member in OTUSA will do whatever they can to help the team win.
“That includes me. If the team feel they have a better chance of winning with me on the wheel, I’ll be on the wheel, if we feel we have a better chance with me off the wheel, no problem. Our attitude has always been you put the team before yourself.
“Once again we will go away and review everything and tomorrow we will put out the boat, the configuration and the team we feel will give us the best possible chance to win some races.
“We don’t need to think too much about the end result, all we need to focus on is winning one race, and one race at a time. We have to learn from our mistakes and come out fighting stronger tomorrow, that’s it, that’s all we will be thinking about.”
Racing is scheduled to resume at 2.00pm on Monday 26th June with races nine and ten in the America’s Cup Match, presented by Louis Vuitton, taking place on Bermuda’s Great Sound.
It was a drag race over the startline in race seven as both teams made clean getaways, Emirates Team New Zealand just ahead as they rounded mark one. Spithill blinked first, making the turn before Burling and slowly inching closer to the Kiwis as they headed towards gate two. On leg three there was very little between the two teams but the Kiwis extended their advantage again as they headed upwind, giving themselves a 32 second lead as they headed into leg four.
Despite the growing gap, OTUSA did not give up, continuing to try and claw back the advantage the Kiwis were building, but it was largely to no avail. The New Zealanders put on a dominant display, extending their lead to 40 seconds by gate four and then slightly back to 35 seconds at the fifth gate.
On leg six it looked as if ETNZ would wrap up the victory cleanly, but a bad jibe gave OTUSA a glimmer of hope. Spithill and his crew did everything they could to stop the leaderboard ticking round to 5-1 to ETNZ, reducing the deficit to 13 seconds at the sixth gate, but they were unable to bridge the gap completely and that left the Kiwis celebrating victory in race seven.
The second of Sunday’s two races started with Emirates Team New Zealand putting clear air between them and Oracle Team USA well before the startline after Spithill had failed to box in his rival, having to watch Burling accelerating into a 13 second lead before Spithill had even crossed the start.
“We thought we would be able to pull a manoeuvre off but clearly we couldn’t, it was a big mistake,” admitted Spithill on the poor pre-start. “That really handed it to Peter and these guys were in a pretty easy situation to hook us and that’s game over really.”
By gate two that lead was already up to 24 seconds and Spithill chose to split the course, a decision that appeared to pay dividends as the gap started to decrease, but a penalty on leg four as OTUSA sailed outside the boundary effectively ended their hopes in race eight.
Again, Emirates Team New Zealand continued to extend their lead, reaching 36 seconds ahead at mark four, sailing their America’s Cup Class (ACC) boat perfectly. This was in contrast to OTUSA whose minor issues kept increasing the difference between the two teams on the racetrack.
Finally, another dominant display by Burling and the New Zealand team culminated in a 30 second win in race eight over OTUSA, putting them on the brink of winning the 35th America’s Cup.
Emirates Team New Zealand bt Oracle Team USA by 12 secs
Emirates Team New Zealand bt Oracle Team USA by 30 secs
Emirates Team New Zealand 6 v Oracle Team USA 1