June 18, 2017: BERMUDA - At the end of Day-1 of the America's Cup Match presented by Louis Vuitton, it's advantage Peter Burling and Emirates Team New Zealand. The Kiwi Challengers to Jimmy Spithill’s ORACLE TEAM USA took back-to-back victories in the first two races of the final stage of the 35th America’s Cup, putting them into a 1-0 lead over the Defenders of the ‘Auld Mug’.
The New Zealanders’ first race victory of the day put the scores at 0-0 as Jimmy Spithill’s team started the America’s Cup Match with a one point advantage over their rivals, having won the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup Qualifiers. Their second victory of the day put the Kiwis into an end-of-day-one lead of one point, with ORACLE TEAM USA yet to score.
The match-up between ORACLE TEAM USA and Emirates Team New Zealand is a rematch of the 2013 America’s Cup Match in which ORACLE TEAM USA staged what many call the greatest comeback in international sport. Then, the US team turned an 8-1 deficit to their Kiwi rivals into a 9-8 victory in San Francisco, setting the stage perfectly for the mother of all grudge matches which is now taking place on Bermuda’s Great Sound.
“Everyone connected to our team has been working incredibly hard to try and give us a fast boat and it is incredible to be able to reward them with two victories today,” said Peter Burling.
However, despite Emirates Team New Zealand securing back-to-back victories on day one, Burling is not getting carried away just yet. “Jimmy (Spithill) and ORACLE TEAM USA sailed really well to put us under a lot of pressure, but we managed to keep our composure and sail really well. We’ve said all along that we are learning all the time and although we won both races we got a lot wrong and made too many mistakes today. We will go away and look at what we need to improve because we all know for a fact that Jimmy (Spithill) won’t give up and so we have to keep progressing."
“We’ve known all along that to win the America’s Cup we had to win eight races and so to get two wins on the board already is fantastic. We’ll keep battling away and aim to get the remaining six wins needed as soon as possible.”
Despite relinquishing the point advantage they held at the beginning of the day, ORACLE TEAM USA helmsman Jimmy Spithill is refusing to panic, especially with the experience of overturning an 8-1 deficit to the same opposition in 2013. “We’re obviously disappointed with what was a tough day, but the deficit is only one point so we we’re not panicking,” said a defiant Spithill.
“Clearly we didn’t sail our best today, but we still had opportunities and that is what we will take away with us. It's too early to draw conclusions on what went wrong for us but we will go away and look at what we have to change ahead of tomorrow. Credit to Peter (Burling) and Emirates Team New Zealand because they made fewer mistakes to win both races. However, I’ve been here before, and it is still only a point!”
Recap - America’s Cup Match, presented by Louis Vuitton, Race One
Jimmy Spithill’s ORACLE TEAM USA made the worst possible start to their defence of the ‘Auld Mug’ as they were handed a penalty for crossing the start line fractionally early.
“We had a little issue on board during the first start,” said Spithill. “We thought we were coming back when we wanted to but as it turned out we were wrong, it is something we will have to go back and look at. We basically handed that first race to them.”
The penalty handed the initiative to Emirates Team New Zealand, and Peter Burling took full advantage, sailing well clear of his rival Spithill, holding a 32 second lead by the turn at the second gate.
In relatively light winds, Burling continued to sail smoothly, extending the Kiwis’ advantage to a healthy margin of one minute and 52 seconds over their rivals by the fifth gate.
However, Burling did not have it all his own way and mistakes began to creep in. Two poor manoeuvres reduced Emirates Team New Zealand’s advantage, giving Jimmy Spithill a slight hope of catching the Kiwis in the closing stages.
“It was an incredibly tricky day out there with the winds and they certainly weren’t our best manoeuvres,” conceded Burling. “If you make a small mistake it can prove a costly one.”
However, there was to be no late drama, as Burling’s team crossed the finish line 30 seconds ahead of Spithill’s ORACLE TEAM USA, wiping out the minus one point deficit to the Defenders and levelling the overall scores to 0-0 ahead of race two.
Recap - America’s Cup Match, presented by Louis Vuitton, Race Two
Having cut the point deficit, Peter Burling and Emirates Team New Zealand set about building on the momentum of victory in the first race by again beating Jimmy Spithill’s ORACLE TEAM USA away from the start line.
Race two was much closer than race one, but Emirates Team New Zealand were still able to pull clear, establishing a lead of up to one minute, 34 seconds by the time they rounded mark four.
However, once again Emirates Team New Zealand gave their rivals a glimmer of hope in the closing stages as ORACLE TEAM USA dramatically cut the gap to Emirates Team New Zealand on the run to the fifth mark. As both boats headed towards the turn the gap was down to just over three seconds, and it looked like the US team might record their first win of the America’s Cup Match, presented by Louis Vuitton, but it was not to be.
“Halfway way up that second beat we definitely lost a lot and we have to go away and keep learning and improving,” admitted Burling.
Having closed the gap, ORACLE TEAM USA’s yacht came down off its foils and that gave Emirates Team New Zealand the chance to re-establish their lead.
“I think what happened is that we lost a rudder,” revealed Spithill, reflecting on the manoeuvre that all but ended their challenge.
“We’ll have to go back and look at that because it was obviously a key moment in the race.”
With the pressure now off, Burling guided his team around the sixth and final gate and coasted to the finish line an entire minute and 28 seconds ahead of Jimmy Spithill’s ORACLE TEAM USA, taking not only their second successive win of day one, but also moving into a one point advantage in the battle for the ‘Auld Mug’.
America’s Cup Match, presented by Louis Vuitton, Race Results
Race One: Emirates Team New Zealand beat ORACLE TEAM USA by 30 seconds.
Race Two: Emirates Team New Zealand beat ORACLE TEAM USA by 1 minute and 28 seconds.
America’s Cup Match, presented by Louis Vuitton, Scores (17th June 2017)
Emirates Team New Zealand: 1 point*
ORACLE TEAM USA: 0 points
* Emirates Team New Zealand started the America’s Cup Match, presented by Louis Vuitton -1 due to ORACLE TEAM USA’s win in the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup Qualifiers