Thousands of boats were crowded with spectators in the Auckland harbor. Viewed by hundreds of thousands of people, there was almost no space on Earth when the New Zealand Sailing Champions made their way to the awards ceremony after completing their fourth Copa America coup.
With century parties, champagne fountains and flags waving, the tiny country celebrated the successful defense of the world’s oldest trophy in international sport by the New Zealand team against defiant Italy in the midst of the Corona pandemic. “It means the world to us as a team,” said 30-year-old helmsman Peter Burling after the decisive victory in the 10th race.
In the 36th game in the cup’s 170-year history, the New Zealand barely gave the Italians a 7-3 chance. The New Zealand crew aboard the “Te Rehutai” scored the decisive point in their first attempt on Wednesday, 46 seconds behind the “Luna Rossa”.
New Zealand’s fight against Corona, which is considered a model, has allowed many onlookers to gather for group chants. Against a stunning backdrop, the trophy defenders affirmed the old America’s Cup rule on the seventh and final day of the race: The fastest boat in a team design competition is the winner.
26 years after their first Cup win, this is New Zealand’s fourth win. In addition to 1995 and this year, the sailors have also succeeded in 2000 and 2017. The Kiwi national team has been working to secure a successful home game for three and a half years since their last win over Bermuda.
The introduction of the new futuristic boat class AC75 with single-hull flying machines on the wings proved to be a direct hit. Martin Fischer (58), a physicist who was born in Sealy and works with the team of Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli, said: “The class was a huge success. It was a good choice and it wasn’t stressful, and it’s still exciting.”
The Italian racing team, which lost on its sixth attempt at the hands of billionaire Patrizio Bertelli, wants to remain faithful to the Copa America despite a renewed defeat. Assistant captain Francesco Bruni (47) said: “The situation is difficult today, but it is not over yet.” “Patrizio Bertelli continues. He told me that.”
Bronny helmsmate Jimmy Spethyl also wants to continue. “I have competed in the last four cup finals, winning twice and losing twice. I’d like to steer that in the right direction in the future,” said the 41-year-old Australian. Team president Max Serena thanked fans back home: “We’ve been cheering for millions of Italians in the past few weeks. And that means a lot to us in times like these.”
For New Zealand captain Grant Dalton (63), whose crew lost in the 2013 San Francisco Cup drama 8: 9 to America after an 8: 1 lead, but managed to take revenge on the disgrace in 2017 ahead of Bermuda, it’s a sweet second victory. “Bermuda was a milestone. But this is much bigger because it happened at home,” he said.
In New Zealand, the New Zealand team is called the “Five Million Team” because the residents are united behind the most successful Cup team in nearly three decades. The New Zealand government surrounding Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern congratulated the victory and immediately provided financial support for the upcoming defense.
The future of the Copa America remained open on the day of New Zealand’s victory. Given the unusual nature of the regattas in which the winning team dictated the framework terms for the next edition in accordance with the founding charter of 1857, it remains to be seen how New Zealand will shape the 37th edition.
© dpa-infocom, dpa: 210317-99-854401 / 3