First contested in 1851, the America’s Cup is the oldest trophy in international sport, pre-dating the modern Olympics by 45 years, and is yachting’s most coveted prize.
Team New Zealand has retained the ‘Auld Mug’, speeding away from its Italian challenger Luna Rossa to claim sailing’s biggest prize in its home waters off Auckland. The victory was the second in a row for a syndicate representing the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron, and the fourth win in the finals since 1995 for a team from New Zealand.
It also marked the second victory in a row for Team New Zealand’s 30-year-old helmsman, Peter Burling, who added another title to a résumé that already includes nine world championships and Olympic gold and silver medals.
“It means the world to us and the team,” Burling told Radio New Zealand, the national public broadcaster.
New Zealand’s clinching race victory came two days after it seized the momentum in a taut competition by exploiting its speed advantage to pick up back-to-back wins on Monday. It won again on Tuesday and Wednesday, when it became the first to reach seven wins.
The clinching race on Wednesday began evenly, with the two boats battling closely. But slightly better tacking and slightly better speed gave New Zealand a seven-second lead at the end of the first leg. From then on, New Zealand slowly and methodically extended its advantage. Every Luna Rossa effort to close the gap was in vain.
The final margin was 46 seconds. The final score in the competition was 7-3.
The Kiwis’ victory ended one of the most unusual editions of the America’s Cup, which was first contested in 1851.
This year’s races took place without their usual huge crowds of visiting spectators, many of whom had been kept away by strict coronavirus restrictions that had effectively closed New Zealand’s borders to noncitizens.
The racing schedule also had to be modified several times to accommodate stringent — and changing — lockdown rules that at times forced delays in the competition.
The America’s Cup has always been a race driven by technology and is the most difficult trophy in sport to win. In the more than 160 years since that first race off England only four countries – the United States, Australia, New Zealand and Switzerland – have experienced the euphoria of winning the Trophy and only eight cities have hosted the competition.