Authors: Rio Sports
Peter Burling and Emirates Team New Zealand are threatening to sail — and cycle — away with the America’s Cup.
The 26-year-old Burling calmly steered the New Zealanders’ 50-foot catamaran to two more dominating victories against Jimmy Spithill and two-time defending champion Oracle Team USA on Sunday to remain undefeated in the showdown on the Great Sound.
Although they’ve won four races, the Kiwis lead Oracle 3-0. Because Oracle won the qualifiers, the challenger started the 35th America’s Cup match with a negative point.
Burling, an America’s Cup rookie who has won Olympic gold and silver medals with grinder Blair Tuke, steered the Kiwis to victories of 49 seconds and 1 minute 12 seconds on the turquoise waters of the Great Sound.
Team New Zealand need to win four more races to return the Auld Mug to the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron in Auckland, where it resided from 1995-2003. Oracle need to win seven to keep the trophy in the hands of American software billionaire Larry Ellison.
Oracle Team USA now have five days to try to come with some answers to counter the design innovations of the scrappy New Zealanders, who are getting by with much less funding. Racing resumes on Saturday and Sunday.
This is a rematch of the epic 2013 America’s Cup, when Team New Zealand, then skippered by Dean Barker, reached match point at 8-1 before Spithill lead Oracle Team USA to eight straight victories on San Francisco Bay to retain the oldest trophy in international sports.
So far, the New Zealanders and their cycling grinding system have proven too fast for Oracle in light, shifty wind. They’ve also made the right choices on which foils to use on the ends of their daggerboards. The New Zealanders used the same foils they did in speeding to two victories on Saturday while the American-backed crew appeared to use two different foils.
Burling and his team are using a “cyclor” grinding system. They’ve built four stationary cycling stations into each hull to tap leg power instead of traditional arm power from the grinders to power the hydraulic systems that control the wing mainsail and the daggerboards. Simon van Velthooven, who won a bronze medal in cycling at the London Olympics, was aboard for Race 3. Olympic rowing champion Joe Sullivan replaced him for Race 4.
Spithill, an Australian, is trying to win his third straight America’s Cup before he turns 38.
Oracle made an unforced error when its catamaran came off its foils early on the downwind second leg. That was enough for Burling to speed away around the seven-leg course for a 49-second victory. In Race 4, the Kiwis held a slim lead at the first mark and simply sped away.