Photography by America's Cup
17 June 2017
It is advantage Peter Burling and Emirates Team New Zealand at the end of day one of the America’s Cup Match, presented by Louis Vuitton. 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’ at the end of day one in Bermuda.
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, presented by Louis Vuitton with a one point advantage over their rivals having won the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup Qualifiers.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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’.