Kiwinners

Somewhere in New Zealand right now, there are teenagers looking up at this most memorable of America’s Cups who will one day be the Pete Burling or Blair Tuke of their generation. There are future superstars in our midst right now. The 38th or 39th America’s Cup will be their turn. The dynasty is set. Maybe their grandparents brought them down to the dock or perhaps Mum and Dad skipped work on this sunny summer’s day to show them just what this is all about. Maybe they spent the day out foiling and will catch up later. Who knows? But if those kids need a blueprint of how to win the America’s Cup on home waters then Team New Zealand just laid it down for future generations to analyse and see how to do it in style.

©ACE / Studio Borlenghi

On St Patrick’s Day in Auckland, the Kiwis didn’t so much beat the opposition as annihilate them. They left nothing on the table on the day. Stop the clocks. Remember the date. History was made today and with the mark of the very greatest champions in sport, they made it look easy.

Today promised it, but was never going to be a nail-biter. There was no need to hide behind the sofa. The dog snoozed through the entire thing, barely raising an eyebrow, such was the utter dominance of Team New Zealand and its quite excellent package, that from the off there was just no doubt. Burling was on fire. Tuke was coolness personified. Ashby made all the right calls. The crew performed. Every generation has their heroes. These are the America’s Cup champions for 2021 and one of the greatest ever to etch their names on the Auld Mug.

After a short delay, racing got underway in a little over 10 knots on the feared Course A where, all season, we’ve seen next to no passing lanes. The premium was all on the start but unlike previous races, Team New Zealand came in with a plan of disengagement and a firm desire to control from the right. As the seconds ticked down, Te Rehutai sat on Luna Rossa’s hip developing speed, hitting the line at 32 knots that allowed them to bounce off immediately as the gun fired and head out on port tack. It was a crucial split and a marker of intent to use the undeniable inherent speed to its advantage. They had worked it out. Finally. Onboard Luna Rossa there must have been a sinking feeling. In effect, with a mindset to run and hide, Team New Zealand could play to their steed’s strength of dynamite boatspeed and eke out the all important initial lead.

©ACE / Studio Borlenghi

It was tight, but it wasn’t. Luna Rossa knew this was a step too far. They had faced down the Haka, challenged impressively but ultimately were succumbing to world sailing’s All Blacks. Eden Park has rarely seen a performance like this. Te Rehutai peeled off at mark one with a seven second delta, roughly 100 metres up but it was like watching Usain Bolt in his prime, a step ahead, a generation above.

After a bit of nip and tuck down the first run as both boats looked for pressure, Team New Zealand were, at some points, sailing anything up to five knots faster, and it all came down to the leeward gate. Luna Rossa slowed, carrying a double board at the gybe into the mark, Team New Zealand rounded wide but got flying rapidly and suddenly 100 metres was 200 metres and from there it was game over. Relentlessly the delta increased, leg after leg. It was sailing, the likes of which we rarely see. A team so on song, they could do no wrong. We were seeing a massacre of sporting ambitions by one of the greatest teams to ever sail in this competition. Professional, controlled, measured, rational – Team New Zealand were quite simply awesome as they pedalled to the floor and showed what front-running is all about. This is how you do it. This is the level the world can only aspire to. By the finish line it was 46 seconds. In reality they were a generation ahead.

©ACE / Studio Borlenghi

Wild scenes of celebration? Not a bit of it. That can come later. In private. Yes a few bottles of champagne sprayed, but it was respectful, a classy acknowledgement of a job well done, executed with a combined team effort by an outstanding group. It was right for the global times. It was pitch perfect. The team got together on the boat, waved the flag, congratulated each other and you get a sense that this isn’t the end. With the billionaires circling desperate for Team New Zealand signatures, desperate to sample the Kool-Aid of an unbeatable team, as they came shoreside you could see the togetherness and camaraderie that make them such a unit. Prising them away will take mega-bucks.

For now, the Cup stays resolutely upstairs in the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron and whether another Yacht Squadron from Cowes in England becomes the Challenger of Record is a story for another day. Whatever happens, the Cup has a bright future. The Italians will be back. They’re too good now not to but where and when is the question. They can reflect on a campaign that they executed to near-perfection. They played the great game of the Cup admirably, aggressively but with elan and style, winning the hearts of their nation and coming so, so close. Tonight they can reflect on a job well done and leave Auckland with their heads held high.

©KOS Picture Source / www.kospictures.com

The glory goes to Team New Zealand. For sure, the knighthood for Grant Dalton must follow. Hero status was cemented and generations of young Kiwis have seen what sporting brilliance and pressure sailing looks like. Congratulations to New Zealand as a nation. Your team not only won the America’s Cup, they won the respect of the world.

Outstanding. Brilliant. Breathtaking. Thoroughly deserved. Whatever next?

20 thoughts on “Kiwinners

  1. I think the generational aspect of Team New Zealand was really apparent watching this competition, in all of the little bio clips it seemed like the sailors were talking about watching the Cups in 1995, 2000, and 2003 as children and in the video honoring him as winner of the Magnus Olsson Prize there was a clip of a 10-year-old Peter Burling in 2001 describing his future dreams as “Probably Team New Zealand or around the world and stuff like that”.

    In 1997, Sports Illustrated (somewhat uncommonly, for a non-American athlete) did a profile on Russell Coutts where Ed Baird was quoted as saying, “In America, kids can choose whether they want to be Michael Jordan, Dan Marino or about 100 other athletes. In New Zealand, you either want to be Russell Coutts or a rugby player.” And we can see that that was true, the 2021 crew absolutely are the generation that grew up wanting to be Blake, Coutts, et al.

    During the Auckland stopover of the Volvo Ocean Race, there was a video posted of Burling surprising kids taking part in the VOR Youth Academy program and before that, they interviewed the kids asking who their favorites were and they were all saying Tuke and Burling.

    Watching the live feed and seeing children watching onshore or on spectator boats with their parents, I couldn’t help but wonder which of them would be the stars of the future.

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  2. I truly believe that if ETNZ had won in 2013, they wouldn’t be anything like they are today. The horror, agony and humiliation of that loss lit a fire that burned deep and long, and the core of Dalton, Davies, Matteo de Nora, Ashby and Bernasconi used that to completely rebuild ETNZ into the beast it is today. Mediocrity and ‘good enough’ was no longer acceptable, no stones were left unturned, radical thoughts were embraced as was the desire to be the best of the best.

    Its such a great example of how to handle failure and immense pressure and to thrive from it instead of letting it crush you. Its surely a blueprint for any underdog out there, sporting or otherwise, on how to be world class at something despite having fewer resources than your competitors.

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      1. Ok, thanks. Will do.
        What a great morning, watching the racing first and after that, the coming home, the celebrations until the sun came up here in the north of Germany and even a bit after that. No need to go to bed when one was able to be part of the celebrations though only on screen but nevertheless it had been directed (?) with absolute great knowledge and inside view into the hopefully thousands or millions of people who had been watching this epic event. I will miss it!
        THANK YOU NEW ZEALAND!

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  3. They won the best. Congratulations to them. Happy for the beautiful emotions experienced and for knowing this fantastic blog! Greetings to you all

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Giordana – thank you for your kind words and for reading my writing. Luna Rossa fought right to the very end and they did a fabulous job against a very fast Team New Zealand. They were a great credit to Italy and I sincerely admire the way they approached this regatta. I hope Mr Bertelli will challenge again because they were so close. Sending you my very best regards. Magnus

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  4. While we are wondering about what to read in the mornings, here’s a question:

    If AC skippers were tennis players, who would they be?

    Burling – Federer. Comes across as a bit dull as a public persona, but clinically perfect and beautiful to watch executing his craft of making yachts sail fast.
    Spithill – Nadal. A never say die fighter who will never ever give up, will chase down everything to win.
    Bruni – Agassi. A master of angles and tactics.

    What about others?

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      1. Interesting take there, Giordano. I can’t read Ben. For many sportspeople who have reached their pinnacle, getting there demanded a degree of aloof selfishness, especially if they are solo sports – like tennis, golf or single handed sailing classes. Ben’s a tough read to me because I don’t know him.

        Andy Murray? Not yet. Murray has won his Wimbledon trophies, but there’s still a gap in Ben’s cabinet.

        Liked by 2 people

    1. That’s an interesting question, but I’m afraid I don’t know enough about tennis to answer. Can’t we compare them to Dungeons and Dragons classes or something nerdy I do know instead? 😉

      AC Helms as DnD characters:

      Burling: Kalashtar Artificer (a reserved but intelligent engineer with an angular face who seems almost psychic)

      Spithill: Fire Genasi Monk (he’s a redheaded boxer with a fiery personality, pretty obvious)

      Ainslie: High Elf Paladin (he’s literally a knight and Elves are always snooty Brits, right?)

      Barker: Half-Elf Ranger (quick, charismatic, and skilled, but has gotten his share of mockery in recent years)

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      1. I’d say Ainslie as Andy Murray: incredibly talented with no enough wins at Grand Slams as his talent would suggest.

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  5. Just a note of thanks for this piece on the final race of the America’s Cup. Being in my mid 70’s it was not an idle thought as the race ended I hoped to live to see more of this great spectacle of sport in the days to come. It is just great to hear some of the behind the scenes reporting that make a good story great. Being an American living not far from Newport it seems watching these boats makes the 12 meters seem ancient but I still long for the days of saying ” I could do that” nope I can’t do that !! Congrats New Zealand , well done. Let the new chapter begin. I look forward to following all the developments with your skilled writing on Rule69blog.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Dear Frank, thank you so much for your very kind comments. It’s a pleasure and a joy to write every day and lovely when I get notes such as this. Thank you. Sending you my very best regards, Magnus

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