Team New Zealand has successfully defended the America’s Cup on home waters.
The Kiwi syndicate wrapped up a 7-3 series win over Luna Rossa with a 46 second victory in race 10 of the regatta on Auckland’s Hauraki Gulf on Wednesday.
“It’s absolutely unreal,” Team New Zealand helmsman Peter Burling said on board Te Rehutai.
“Just coming back to the chase boat and seeing all the people involved in this campaign over three or so years and how many Kiwis are out here supporting the event again.
“We’ve had messages from everyone from the Prime Minister to high school kids to just about anyone you could think of with support and it just means the world to us as a team.
“I don’t think you could think of a much more special environment than this with over couple of thousand boats out every day, the village absolutely packed, people everywhere, to do something like this on home water is something the whole team is incredibly proud of.”
After securing the favoured right-hand side of the course in another tight battle off the start line, Team New Zealand got Te Rehutai’s nose in front to go through the first gate with a narrow seven-second lead.
That buffer was out to nine seconds after leg two, but it was the third of six legs when the defenders really extended to put one hand on the Cup again.
Team New Zealand powered downwind to be 27 seconds in front at the halfway mark of the race and, with a 37 second lead at gate number four, all that was required was two mistake-free legs to secure the series.
That was exactly what they produced, keeping things calm and composed in the last push to the finish before the celebrations finally broke out as they crossed the line.
Despite Luna Rossa’s challenge proving unsuccessful, co-helmsman Francesco Bruni said it had been a fantastic experience.
“I’d firstly like to congratulate Team New Zealand, they’ve done a fantastic job.
“But also I need to congratulate with Luna Rossa, they’re a fantastic team, we proved to the world that we could do it and it’s been hard luck in the last couple of days, but I think we’ve done a great job as a team.”
As he sat on the side of Te Rehutai soaking it all in, Team New Zealand flight controller Blair Tuke said the moment was hard to describe.
“Yeah, wow, what a beauty.
“Unreal. Defending the America’s Cup on home waters, out here on the Hauraki Gulf.
“Unbelievable feeling to know the work that’s gone in from so many people over the last three and half years, and even right back to before we won it in Bermuda.
“It’s been huge from the team, and a massive honour to race here in front of five million Kiwis. To know we’ve had their support … what scenes, unbelievable.”
The other man steering Luna Rossa had been Team New Zealand’s nemesis from San Francisco in 2013, Jimmy Spithill.
As he was after then being beaten aboard Oracle in Bermuda, though, the no-nonsense Australian was gracious in defeat.
“[Luna Rossa] is an incredible team, and really the whole campaign.
“It’s been an absolutely relentless campaign and just to see the passion, the emotion and the work ethic the Italians portray, [it] has definitely been one of the most amazing and campaigns in that regard for me.
“Obviously full credit to Team New Zealand. They developed a fantastic package and are deserving champions.”
After reclaiming the Auld Mug in Bermuda four years ago, the result ensured Team New Zealand had successfully defended international sport’s oldest prize for the second time in history.
The team first won the America’s Cup in 1995 in San Diego and went on to easily fight off the challenge of Luna Rossa in Auckland in 2000.