Team New Zealand beat Italy’s Luna Rossa 7-3 to win their fourth America’s Cup Wednesday and retain the world’s oldest international sporting trophy in front of huge crowds in Auckland.
The defending champions claimed the single win they needed to seal the prestigious, best-of-13 yachting series with a 46-second victory in race 10 on Auckland’s Waitemata Harbour.
New Zealand claimed the ‘Auld Mug’ trophy once again to confirm their dominance in the competition, which dates back to 1851.
“It’s absolutely unreal… it just means the world to us as a team,” Team New Zealand helmsman Peter Burling said.
Team New Zealand entered the regatta as heavy favourites but the Italians matched them in the early stages, taking the scores to 3-2.
But the hosts then reeled off five successive wins, helped by their superior speed and local knowledge as Auckland produced days of light, inconsistent winds.
The New Zealanders had been poised to land the killer blow on Tuesday but the champagne was put on ice when a late wind shift meant race 10 was held over until Wednesday.
The delay built anticipation in Auckland, where tens of thousands gathered from early morning to cheer on their team, creating a party atmosphere in a city which only emerged from a Covid-19 lockdown 11 days ago.
The win underlines Team New Zealand’s status as the pre-eminent force in the modern era of the America’s Cup, winning in 1995, 2000, 2017 and 2021. They were also runners-up in 2003, 2007 and 2013.
For Luna Rossa, there was more disappointment in their sixth campaign, forced to settle for a runner-up medal to match the one they earned in 2000.
“It’s not finished,” co-helmsman Francesco Bruni said. “I’m sure (Luna Rossa) will try again. I’m very happy with how this team has been run. Thank you Italia.”
‘Beautiful in anger’
The Italians far exceeded pre-match expectations, when some pundits predicted a 7-0 Kiwi sweep, and they would have run Team New Zealand even closer without a few tactical errors at clutch moments.
Luna Rossa co-helmsman Jimmy Spithill said Team New Zealand “developed a fantastic package and are deserved champions”.
“Obviously we will need to go have a beer with the Kiwis, really pay respect to those guys,” he said.
“But Ive got to thank all of our teammates who made such a huge amount of effort to allow us to get out here and fight it out in the America’s Cup.”
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was quick to congratulate the Kiwi team.
“Team New Zealand has once again made us all so proud by retaining the America’s Cup as New Zealand’s cup,” she said in a statement.
Ardern also looked ahead to New Zealand’s next defence of the Cup, expected in 2024, saying the government would give the team NZ$5.0 million (US$3.6 million) to help retain key personnel and discourage rival syndicates from poaching them.
The focus will now turn to the future format of the America’s Cup.
The Cup-holder gets to choose the venue and set the rules of the next regatta and Team New Zealand confirmed last month it would consider bids from overseas cities to host the event.
Wherever it is held, the next contest appears set to retain the 23-metre (75-foot) monohull boats, which fly above the water on carbon fibre foiling arms.
Team New Zealand skipper Glenn Ashby this week described the hi-tech vessels — which reach speeds exceeding 50 knots while balanced precariously on their foils — as “absolutely phenomenal” this week.
“They’re a beautiful boat – beautiful-looking at rest and beautiful in anger as well,” he said.