Wed, Jun 28, 2017 - Page 16 News List

Relief as Team NZ win America’s Cup

‘HOLD ON’:Supporters watching in New Zealand said that, despite their teams’ lead, overall victory was never certain as memories of the 2013 regatta remained vivid

AFP, WELLINGTON

Emirates Team New Zealand sail during Race 9 of the America’s Cup against Oracle Team USA in Hamilton, Bermuda, on Monday.

Photo: AFP

Supporters yesterday greeted Team New Zealand’s America’s Cup victory with jubilation and a huge sigh of relief as it was revealed that the triumph was secured with a damaged boat that could have failed at any time.

New Zealand syndicate boss Grant Dalton said after the win that Team NZ had to nurse their boat through the entire regatta after it sustained major damage to daggerboards on the first day of racing in the challenger series.

“We found some pretty serious structural issues with the daggerboards, because they had been taken so far out of range that they were basically letting go,” he said.

The components could have failed at any time, Dalton said.

“Every time we do a tack or a gybe or whatever, I’ve just been going: ‘Hold on, hold on,’ and they have,” he said.

The race that delivered the 7-1 win in Bermuda started before dawn on a chilly Wellington morning for sailing enthusiasts packed into the Royal Port Nicholson Yacht Club.

Even though the New Zealand team were on match point and close to a crushing win, there was an undercurrent of anxiety as bleary-eyed patrons sipped coffee and ate cooked breakfasts.

“It’s never a done deal,” Will Eastman told reporters just before the race was screened on a giant TV.

After all, patrons had gathered at the same club four years previously full of confidence with New Zealand up 8-1 and needing just one more win to claim the Auld Mug.

Instead, they saw Oracle Team USA relentlessly hack away at the lead over more than week and claim a stunning 9-8 in San Francisco.

“The last Cup hurt a lot for me and for a lot of people here,” the club’s commodore Pedro Morgan told reporters about a result that had been described as the greatest choke in sporting history.

The atmosphere had been tense as New Zealand fell behind early to Oracle, skippered by the never-say-die Australian Jimmy Spithill, nemesis of the 2013 campaign.

It gave way to muted cheering as New Zealand edged ahead, then the crowd erupted as the hi-tech catamaran swooped toward the finish and TV commentators declared: “There will be no fairytale comeback this time.”

Newspapers were quick to react. “Redemption! Team NZ claims the Cup: ‘We’re on top of the world,’” the New Zealand Herald’s Web site said.

The Kiwi syndicate was the only challenger that refused to sign a pre-regatta agreement with Oracle that would have dictated terms for the next two editions of the Cup.

It means they are not obliged to continue to race the futuristic catamarans seen in Bermuda and they can maintain the tradition of holding the event once every four years, not every two years as Oracle were demanding.

Dalton said that some details for the next series, including plans to include a nationality requirement for the crews, would be released within the next few weeks.

There was no love lost between Oracle and Team NZ after San Francisco and Morgan said the fact that the Kiwis could now snub Oracle’s plans made victory even sweeter.

“It definitely does,” Morgan said. “It’s the America’s Cup, the rules are the defender’s to mould and take advantage of.”

“Oracle did that and I think it’s to our credit that we overcame all of that and beat them,” he said.

The champagne showers celebrating the victory were barely over when Italian syndicate Luna Rossa was confirmed as challenger of record for the next edition.

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