The 35th America’s Cup has been a rout so far — for the underdogs. The scrappy Kiwis of Emirates Team New Zealand have dominated Oracle Team USA so far in Bermuda, opening up a 3-0 lead on the two-time defending champs. And they’re doing it with leg power.
The always-crafty Kiwis are using a “cyclor” grinding system. They’ve built four stationary cycling stations into each hull to tap leg power instead of traditional arm power from the grinders to power the hydraulic systems that control the wing mainsail and the daggerboards. Simon van Velthooven, who won a bronze medal in cycling at the London Olympics, was aboard for Race 3, which was neck-and-neck at one point.
Peter Burling, a 26-year-old America’s Cup rookie, steered the Kiwis’ fast 50-foot catamaran to two more dominating victories against Jimmy Spithill and two-time defending champion Oracle Team USA on Sunday to remain undefeated in the showdown on the Great Sound.
Although they’ve won four races, the Kiwis lead Oracle 3-0. Because Oracle won the qualifiers, the challenger started the 35th America’s Cup match with a negative point. Burling, who has won Olympic gold and silver medals with grinder Blair Tuke, steered New Zealand to victories of 49 seconds and 1 minute, 12 seconds on the turquoise waters of the Great Sound.
Team New Zealand needs to win four more races to return the Auld Mug to the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron in Auckland, where it resided from 1995-2003. Oracle needs to win seven to keep the silver trophy in the hands of American software billionaire Larry Ellison.
Well-funded Oracle Team USA has five days to try to come with some answers to counter the spot-on design innovations by the scrappy Kiwis, who are getting by with much less funding. Racing resumes Saturday and Sunday.
This is a rematch of the epic 2013 America’s Cup, when Team New Zealand, then skippered by Dean Barker, reached match point at 8-1 before Spithill lead Oracle Team USA to eight straight victories on San Francisco Bay to retain the oldest trophy in international sports.
So far, the Kiwis and their cycling grinding system have proven too fast for Oracle in light, shifty wind. They’ve also made the right choices on which foils to use on the ends of their daggerboards. The Kiwis used the same foils they did in speeding to two victories on Saturday while the American-backed crew appeared to use two different foils.
Spithill, an Australian, is trying to win his third straight America’s Cup before he turns 38. Oracle made an unforced error when its catamaran came off its foils early on the downwind second leg. That was enough for Burling to speed away around the seven-leg course for a 49-second victory.
In Race 4, the Kiwis held a slim lead at the first mark and simply sped away.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
America’s Cup: Team New Zealand takes commanding 3-0 lead over Oracle Team USA – CBSSports.com