Emirates Team New Zealand reasserted their dominance in the America’s Cup on Sunday, stretching their lead to 5-1 over defenders Oracle Team USA with a victory in the first of the day’s two races.
The charismatic Spithill has more expertise in match racing, the sailing equivalent of a boxing contest, and the benefit of almost two decades of America’s Cup experience.
The final is a repeat of the last time the trophy was contested in 2013, when U.S. came from 8-1 down to win 9-8. Perhaps looking to one-up Spithill in gamesmanship, Burling might as well have been waving goodbye to two-time defending champion Oracle Team USA, which is owned by software tycoon Larry Ellison and crewed mostly by Australians.
It was a balance the Kiwi cyclors had clearly all-but nailed to help their team reach match point against the Cup holders.
He was keen to heap pressure on the challengers heading into two further races on Monday (NZT). That was the key thing. That’s a good position to be in, knowing there is more on the table and that the changes are working, the boat is getting quicker. You see the team’s pumped up now.
We felt like we gave away that last race a bit, but it is great to see a little fight out of these boys, Burling added.
“Despite the lead we won’t get ahead of ourselves because we still know we have a job to do and it’s still an incredibly tough ask”.
Spithill acknowledged that New Zealand just sailed better yesterday as they ensured Oracle didn’t build on their first victory of the series a day before.
“I looked up once and we were right on the stern of Oracle then I had another look and we were right beside them”.
But Burling responded in the best possible way, taking both today’s races in convincing fashion.
“I think that’s showed over the last couple of days, we’ve had quite a few starts within about a metre of the line, doing over 30 knots. But a misjudgement on the final beat let the Americans back in and they raced away for an 11” win.
In the second race, Burling out-foxed Spithill in the pre-start box to hit the startline a mammoth 14 seconds in front.
“We have learned our lesson from San Fran”, he said. But after the Kiwis won both races on day four to move to within a single victory of regaining the Cup, Spithill spoke out of habit, rather than conviction.
Ahead by 32 seconds through the third gate, Team NZ found a decisive puff down the right boundary of the fourth leg to further extend the margin.
Spithill’s famous fightback in San Francisco in 2013 ranks as one of the biggest ever sporting reversals, overturning an 8-1 New Zealand lead to win the “Auld Mug” by 9-8.