The ghosts of 2013 have finally been laid to rest – the America’s Cup is returning to New Zealand.
Peter Burling’s Team New Zealand have beaten Jimmy Spithill’s American outfit by 55 seconds to win the America’s Cup Match Series 7-1 on Bermuda’s Great Sound.
The win finally laid to rest memories from four years ago in San Francisco, when the Kiwis squandered an 8-1 lead over Team USA to lose the challenge series 9-8.
Team New Zealand skipper Glenn Ashby, the sole remaining member of the 2013 crew, said it was “absolutely unbelievable” to finally win back the Auld Mug.
“A few years ago, it was absolutely brutal for the team,” he said.
“It was a hard pill to swallow – for myself and a lot of the other guys with the team this time round, it is a great redemption and a relief to right the wrongs of the last campaign.
“There’s that feeling of relief and immense satisfaction that as a fantastic team we’ve actually been able to pull off almost the unimaginable against all odds.”
The Kiwis built steadily in light airs on early Tuesday morning (NZT) after Team USA edged the start to take a narrow early lead in what would be the final race.
Team NZ hit the front at the second gate, extending that to 25 seconds at the third and adding another 10 seconds going through gate four.
The Americans cut the deficit slightly on the fifth leg, but the Kiwis were relentless over the final stages in shutting out a comprehensive win.
Not only was their pace better downwind, they also edged Team USA upwind for speed.
As low-key as ever, Burling nevertheless couldn’t keep the smile off his face.
“It’s unreal – it’s exactly what we came here to do,” he said.
“We’re on top of the world. It’s been three years of hard work for so many people in the team.”
Burling said that defeat had played a big part in motivating his crew.
“I definitely don’t think we’d be here without the heartache of San Francisco.”
An emotional Spithill, who was gunning for his third America’s Cup after wins with Team USA in 2010 and 2013, paid tribute to the Kiwi effort.
“We’re obviously disappointed, but full credit to Team New Zealand. What a series – they made fewer mistakes and they fully deserve it so our hats are off to them.”