HAMILTON: Emirates Team New Zealand booked an America’s Cup rematch with Oracle Team USA on Monday, beating Sweden’s Artemis Racing in the lone race of the day to win the challenger final 5-2.
The Kiwis came into the day with a 4-2 lead in the best-of-nine series and needing just one victory to advance to the 35th America’s Cup Match.
The decisive day got off to an anti-climactic start when the first race was abandoned as the winds dropped and neither boat could make it to the finish line of the shortened course within the 25-minute limit.
After a couple of hours of waiting — and with just 10 minutes left until the latest possible start time — regatta director Iain Murray determined the wind had built enough to conduct a fair race.
Barely anything separated the two rivals at the start, but it was New Zealand in front after a sprint to the first mark — the first time in the series that helmsman Nathan Outteridge didn’t have Artemis in front early.
From there the Swedes simply couldn’t match New Zealand’s speed as Kiwi skipper Peter Burling and his crew delivered a textbook performance in light winds for a convincing win.
“We’re obviously pretty excited,” said Burling, adding that the configuration of his team’s foiling catamaran was “spot on”.
“I think it showed during that race — the boat was just going seriously fast,” Burling said. “And we got a good start, so it’s all the little things we’ve worked on all week.
“We definitely feel like we’re in great shape to take on Oracle now.”
Team New Zealand, who fell victim to Oracle Team USA’s remarkable comeback in San Francisco four years ago, will try to thwart the Americans’ bid for a third straight America’s Cup crown in the finals that get underway on Saturday.
Burling wasn’t on that New Zealand team in 2013, when US skipper Jimmy Spithill led his team back from a 1-8 deficit to a 9-8 triumph.
The only holdover on the Kiwi starting crew is wing trimmer and skipper Glenn Ashby.
While New Zealand’s current crew may bear no scars from the ordeal of San Francisco, they do go into the first-to-seven final at a slight disadvantage.
Oracle open their defense one point up thanks to topping the standings in the round-robin phase of qualifying.
But Burling and his crew are battle hardened, having come through a frightening capsize in heavy winds in a challenger semi-final race against Land Rover BAR last week.
No one was seriously hurt, but it needed a massive repair effort just to resume racing and complete a 5-2 semi-final series win over the British outfit helmed by Ben Ainslie.
“One thing about this team, they’ve dug super-deep to get us to this point,” said Burling, whose team are determined to bring the venerable trophy home for a third time, after winning with Black Magic in 1995 and 2000.
“We’re here to bring the Cup back to New Zealand and that hasn’t changed,” Burling said. “We’ve gone through a lot of adversity … We’re super-excited to take on Oracle.”