It’s match point for Emirates Team New Zealand at the 35th America’s Cup in Bermuda after a stunning performance against Oracle Team USA.
Peter Burling and his crew took out both races to go 6-1 up in the first to seven Match, but it was the way in which they won that is the talking point here.
After what was by their standards an error-strewn race six yesterday, the Kiwis approached race seven today with lessons clearly well learned overnight.
In light conditions again of 8-10 knots Burling controlled the start to go streaking round Mark 1 three seconds to the good. And by the end of the first upwind leg Emirates Team New Zealand led by 32”.
On the final downwind stretch the Kiwi boat was giving its fans a few nervous moments as Oracle found pressure and clawed 20” back.
They needn’t have worried. This was an astute tactical race by the Emirates Team New Zealand afterguard who were prepared to make sacrifices to keep it tight and controlled.
“We said last night that we had a few things to work on and we addressed a few of them today,” said Burling. “We tried to consolidate. We felt like we had minimal risk the whole race. Pretty happy with that.”
One commentator called it a “statement” race for Emirates Team New Zealand which used up the perfect adjective to describe the start of race 8.
In his most aggressive move of the Match so far Burling took the fight directly to Oracle skipper Jimmy Spithill. He lined him up, hooked him and then left him dead in the water “both hulls in”, before lighting up Aotearoa to fly round mark one an unheard of 14” clear.
It was the start of a nightmare race for Spithill who took Oracle over the boundary line for an unforced error that copped a penalty and in another poor mark rounding he sat the boat down again.
The Kiwis, meanwhile, were up and running on their way to another start to finish victory with a 30” margin and a 100 per cent fly time on the foils right round the track.
Even Spithill felt obliged to praise Emirates Team New Zealand performance saying: “Hats off to those guys today. They deserved to win the two races.”
Oracle’s plan is to continue learning lessons, come back stronger and take it one race at a time knowing they have beaten the Kiwis once.
For the Kiwis, skipper Glenn Ashby also had a familiar refrain: ”We’ve been in this situation before. There’s still a long way to go.
“We’re just going to look at tomorrow as another day. We’ve seen this movie before. Anything can happen and we are just going to keep focussing on what we can focus on, you know…sailing the boat well, keep pushing hard and just take tomorrow as it comes.”