Racing action dominated the island of Bermuda between May 26 and June 26, 2017, culminating in the 35th America's Cup Match, presented by Louis Vuitton. In this final phase, challenger Emirates Team New Zealand, with Peter Burling at the helm, faced off against the defending team, ORACLE TEAM USA, helmed by Jimmy Spithill.
Ultimately, Emirates Team New Zealand proved the dominating force, winning 7 of 8 final races and becoming champions of the 35th America’s Cup. Emirates Team New Zealand will now defend the cup on their home turf – the 36th America's Cup is slated to be held in Auckland in 2021.
New Zealand native Peter Burling, 26, is the youngest winning helmsman in America's Cup history. Under his lead, Emirates Team New Zealand took an innovative approach to powering their boat. The Kiwis chose to operate the wings and foils with four small bicycles instead of the traditional hand-cranked “grinding stations.” The idea was that using their legs would provide more power, and despite some potential drawbacks, the strategy proved worth the risk.
The racing action unfolded on Bermuda’s Great Sound. Following is an overview of race results, from start to finish.
America's Cup Qualifiers
Six teams competed in the qualifying rounds. Each team raced the other teams twice, earning a point for each victory, with the top four advancing.
Races for Round Robin 1 were held May 26-29, followed by Round Robin 2 from May 30 through June 3. Finishing at the top of the standings, defending champions ORACLE TEAM USA skipped the playoffs and advanced directly to the America's Cup Match.
- ORACLE TEAM USA: 9 points* (8 wins, 2 losses)
- Emirates Team New Zealand: 8 points (8 wins, 2 losses)
- Land Rover BAR (Great Britain): 6 points* (4 wins, 6 losses)
- Artemis Racing (Sweden): 5 points (5 wins, 5 losses)
- SoftBank Team Japan: 3 points (3 wins, 7 losses)
- Groupama Team France: 2 points (2 wins, 8 losses)
*Land Rover BAR (GB) headed into the qualifiers with two points and ORACLE TEAM USA with one point after finishing first and second in the 2015-16 World Series.
Louis Vuitton America’s Cup Challenger Playoffs Semi-Finals: June 5-9
With USA bypassing the playoffs and France opting to exit the competition, four teams battled it out in the playoff semi-finals: New Zealand, Great Britain, Sweden and Japan. The first team to win five races in each semi-final advanced to the challenger final.
In one of the most dramatic moments of the entire month-long competition, the Emirates Team New Zealand boat capsized during a semifinal match-up with Land Rover BAR on June 7. Only seconds into the race, New Zealand’s catamaran dove forward and flipped on its side, ejecting some sailors into the water while suspending others above it. Fortunately, no crew members were hurt and the 50-foot boat suffered no major structural damage. Peter Burling later admitted it was “fully our error” – New Zealand had been in hot pursuit of Land Rover BAR.
Despite the crash, New Zealand – along with Sweden – advanced to the finals.
"In 30 years of racing I've never seen anything like that," said Ben Ainslie, Land Rover BAR helmsman.
Louis Vuitton America’s Cup Challenger Playoffs Finals: June 10-12
In the playoff finals, Emirates Team New Zealand faced off against Artemis Racing (Sweden), helmed by Nathan Outteridge. The first to win five races would advance to the America’s Cup Match. After the first day of racing, New Zealand took the lead 2-1. After the second day of racing, New Zealand advanced its lead, steaming ahead 4-2. On June 12, New Zealand took Race 7, winning the finals (5-2) and advancing to the America’s Cup Match to face ORACLE TEAM USA.
America's Cup Match, presented by Louis Vuitton
From June 17-26, defending champion ORACLE TEAM USA fought to remain in the top spot while challenger Emirates Team New Zealand fought to redeem itself from crushing defeat in the previous America’s Cup. The best of 13 races would win the coveted “auld mug.”
Race 1 & 2: Saturday, June 17
New Zealand took the early lead, winning both races on Day 1 of the America’s Cup Match.
- New Zealand 1-0 USA (Race 1)
- New Zealand 1-0 USA (Race 2)
Race 3 & 4: Sunday, June 18
On Day 2, New Zealand won both races, continuing to shut out ORACLE TEAM USA.
- New Zealand 1-0 USA (Race 3)
- New Zealand 1-0 USA (Race 4)
Races 5 & 6: Saturday, June 24
After a five-day rest period, ORACLE TEAM USA came back strong and won Race 6. They had made changes to their boat’s setup and felt confident about regaining a foothold in the competition.
- New Zealand 1-0 USA (Race 5)
- USA 1-0 New Zealand (Race 6)
Race 7: Sunday, June 25
With hopes of a comeback dashed, USA once again loses to the Kiwis, who are now one win away from taking home the top prize.
- New Zealand 1-0 USA (Race 7)
Race 8: Monday, June 26
The final race was another blowout. New Zealand was trailing early on but pulled ahead and dominated for the rest of the race. With seamless teamwork and sheer speed, New Zealand finished 55 seconds ahead of the ORACLE TEAM USA, winning the America’s Cup Match 7-1.
- New Zealand 1-0 USA (Race 8)
Emirates New Zealand became champions of the 35th America’s Cup and sailed away with the prized “auld mug.”