After the heartbreaking ‘defeat snatched from the jaws of victory’ in 2013, Emirates Team New Zealand brought in some new blood to boost their 2017 challenge in the America’s Cup.
Central to this were young Kiwi Olympic gold medal winners, helmsman Peter Burling and flight controller Blair Tuke, who joined the only remaining crew member from 2013, Aussie skipper Glenn Ashby.
Here, Burling and Ashby give us an insight into what it took to bring the Cup home.
How did it feel when you knew you had the Cup won?
Peter Burling: “Absolutely unreal and coming from a country like New Zealand and being a proud Kiwi, growing up watching the America’s Cup, to be able to represent your country like that and for us now to be bringing that trophy home – it’s pretty special.”
Was there a moment during the series when you thought we’ve got Team Oracle’s measure?
Glenn Ashby: The whole way through the Challenger series and the Louis Vuitton Playoffs and then into the Match, we were up against it and it wasn’t really until we completed those first couple of days of racing against Oracle that we really felt we were in a strong position. That’s the beauty of the race that we have had. It’s been evolving the whole way through and we’ve had to adapt and continue our improvement. So it wasn’t until we got that first weekend of racing (against Oracle) under our belts that we thought we were in with a chance.
Team Oracle actually beat you in the Challenger series at the start of the regatta. Was it a surprise to then beat them so easily to win the America’s Cup?
GA: The racing we had against Ben Ainslie Racing (BAR) and also Artemis really raised the bar for ourselves and we were battle hardened when we went in to the race against Oracle in the Match. I think Artemis proved that they were very tough competitors having beaten Oracle 14 or 15 or 16 races straight previously. We knew if we could sail well against Artemis that we had a little bit of a benchmark. Whoever made it through the Challenger series and the Louis Vuitton final was always going to be a very strong opponent due to the depth of competition up to that stage
The boat got a lot faster during the regatta. Why was that?
PB: It shows you what a small difference makes. The Challenger series we really struggled to get off the start line, we didn’t quite have all our equipment up and running. We put a massive effort in with the shore crew and everyone after that to tidy up the little areas we could. We definitely came into Bermuda pretty late and we had some things we hadn’t thought about, which we rectified. So we were really happy with the way we kept pushing forward, progressing. It felt like if we had to go longer we just would have kept getting faster and faster. That’s something that was always our goal to go there and win the last race and it felt like we sailed our best race in the last one.
When Oracle came back and won a race to make it 5-1, were you worried that 2013 was happening all over again?
PB: Statistically it’s pretty unlikely that they won’t win one race. We were really happy with how we started off the event, obviously we were one point behind going into it from the Challenger’s series but I felt like we were getting better all the time, improving all the time, using better equipment all the time as things came on line and as we progressed as a team. I think the way everything came in so late and we just dealt with it and learnt how to use it was a massive part of why we had such good speed at the end.
What did having Peter’s skills as helmsman bring to your campaign?
GA: Pete’s obviously come up through an Olympic background, obviously sailed a lot of high performance dinghies in his short time in the sailing arena. His level of technical ability far outweighs his years. I think he’ll go a long way with his sailing in the future and I think his inclusion to the team, as with Blair and with all the young guys in the team, was a real step forward particularly with the types of boats we’re sailing that depends on that ‘touchie-feelie’ skills that a lot of the young guys have coming off high performance dinghies.