In the end, it turned out that the fight for the world's oldest sports trophy, or «Old Toad» ("Auld mug"), as it is called, went into one gate. Team New Zealand lost both experience and depth of the wallet, but this did not prevent them in the fight for the «America»'s Cup to tear apart its long-time owners, team Oracle Team USA.
Jimmy Spithill, the most successful skipper in the history of the Cup in general, fought like a lion for the trophy, which would have been his third consecutive trophy, but in the end, by his own admission, he and his team won the skill. «I didn't see any weaknesses in their entire campaign»," the Aussie admitted after the final race.
There weren't any weak spots that could have caught them. But there were also many strong points that eventually led the less wealthy team to victory:
Gathering together after defeat.
After a heartbreaking defeat in San Francisco in 2013, the New Zealanders underwent a nearly complete line-up change. After clearing the rows from the previous crew, only skipper Glenn Ashby was left in the current crew, so those who ran the boat had no doubt about the depth of their soul or negative emotional baggage.
The Australian skipper coped with his own disappointment by letting this energy go to motivate new faces in the crew. «It's much, much better, I'll tell you, to go to the podium winning the race than coming in second,»" Ashby said. «It's been the most powerful few years for the team. It was a giant emotional swing for all of us».
According to Spithill himself, his compatriot and rival, Ashby played a crucial role in the success of the New Zealanders. «As bitter as it is for me to lose the Cup, I'm certainly happy for Glenn and his guys, who were able to climb, cope with their own demons and achieve this victory»," said Spithill.
Along with the Cup veterans, the team was also able to attract some great new fighters. The star of the young recruits was Peter Burling, who had a taste of winning the 2013 «America»'s Youth Cup. At the age of 26, he was the youngest helm ever to lead his team to victory. «We are extremely happy to have done our job»today," said Peter Burling, who won a gold medal at the Rio Olympics.
The pedal drive
To take the Oracle team - a perfectly equipped team that had won the Cup twice before - by surprise was clearly not enough. According to Team New Zealand CEO Grant Dalton, the «kiwifruit» needed to rely on innovative solutions to succeed. «It was clear that we wouldn't beat»them in finance," Dalton said after the race. «If they had to spend five, seven times more than we did, they would have done it. So we had to beat them on the brain».
The best example of this innovative approach was the pedal winch drive, which used the muscular strength of the legs instead of traditional manual «meat»grinders. New Zealanders were the only ones to use this system from the very beginning of training, and it allowed athletes to free their hands for trimming, improving overall performance on board.
This was a technical advantage that the Oracle Americans had nothing to oppose - although they tried to adapt the drive to a single winch, they eventually abandoned the idea even before the final race. It turned out that New Zealand immediately came forward in the race for competitive advantage. «Actually, they had a lot of smart solutions. It's very impressive if you look at their racing campaigns over the years, how innovative»they are," admits Spithill.
The New Zealanders were the last to bring their yacht to the site of the race in Bermuda. They did it their own way from the start. As a result, training on familiar water helped the new Cup contenders to stay in the shadows, rather than laying out all the secrets of preparation, wearing under the watchful eyes of all five rival teams.
«Coming to Bermuda later than anyone else, with a pretty aggressive equipment, against all odds and eventually pulling out a victory is certainly a moment of incredible pride for me, for the team and for the whole country»," Ashby said later. «The choice in favor of a bold and aggressive approach, once foresightedly made by the whole team, today led us to this victory».
The entire New Zealand racing campaign could easily have gone off the rails in the semifinal race, after a spectacular coup against the BAR British. Three crew members flew off into the water, but fortunately no one was hurt except for the ego and the boat.
The wings were pretty damaged in the accident, and the dinghies on the boat were not at their best since the previous collisions, so that both could not withstand at any moment. Even so, the crew continued to squeeze everything out of the catamaran in every race, carefully hiding the real extent of damage on the boat behind the stone pokerfishes.
Although Oracle watchers did not take their eyes off the competitors, the New Zealand coastal team was able to patch up the catamaran every time so that nothing prevented the boat from making a winning leap to the finish.
«We, of course, a lot of things were not much of a poster. But in the end, it gave us a chance to succeed»today," Ashby said.
Loyalty to our
The fact that Oracle Team USA was catching up with other space programmes meant that New Zealand yachtsmen had no shortage of tempting financial offers from competitors. However, Team New Zealand had a wall in place throughout the four years of preparation: only one designer had left the rival team during this time.
Such loyalty is not bought with bonuses or incentive payments. Here, as the skipper of the winning team says, is pure comradeship: «I personally work with people with whom I would be very happy to sit down and have a beer at the end of the day».