America's Cup: a legendary final!
The Americans warned us: the 34th America’s Cup must be the most incredible in its history. Yet after a boring Louis Vuitton Cup, we could have had doubts. But it really was an exceptional final they treated us to!
Whilst preparing the AC45s for the Youth America's Cup, raced on these boats, the measurers realized that the Americans’ cats...were no longer within the class rules! They had clearly been tampered with, to be faster. The sanction was immediate: those responsible were banned (including Dick de Ridder, the USA’s wing trimmer) and the American challenge was awarded a two-point penalty for the final. To take the Cup, the New Zealanders would have to win 9 legs as against 11 for the Americans... A good start!
Imperious New Zealanders!
The first legs went one way: the first three went to New Zealand, whilst USA 17 won the fourth. Then once again, the next three races went to the challenger. At that moment, it was already 6 to minus 1. The bookmakers didn’t give very good odds on the American defender. Although the Americans won the following two legs, the New Zealanders took races 10 and 11 without any difficulty. At this moment in the match, the score was irrevocable, and Emirates Team New Zealand clearly dominated the proceedings, 8 victories to 3, and an unstoppable 8 to 1 on points. In short, for everyone the game was over, and behind the scenes, people were starting to ask themselves how the next Cup would go, and above all, on what boats it would be raced...
But there you go. In sport, you haven’t won until you’ve crossed the line!
The incredible comeback
At the moment they were led by 4 victories to 1, the Americans played their joker, by returning to their base instead of racing, to take advantage of this time to carry out some changes to the boat. What changes? It’s top secret, of course, but what was visible was the arrival of Ben Ainslie in place of John Kostecki in USA 17’s afterguard. From change to change, the defender gained time on each tack, sailed closer to the wind, and started to win a few legs and gain in confidence.
And suddenly, whilst they were led 8 to 1, the Americans became unbeatable and realized the impossible: they clawed back the score, day after day, without ever committing the slightest error, by one or two legs a day... 8-2 ; 8-3 ; 8-5 ; 8-6 and finally 8 - 8 ! Those who were already imagining the Cup back in slow monohulls were silenced when faced with the fabulous show put on by these flying geniuses. Team New Zealand even reached the speed record in an AC 72, with an instantaneous speed of 47.57 knots in a wind blowing at less than 20 knots... Incredible!
The final leg was quite simply magic for the Americans, who had become unbeatable, dared to go for it and won hands down.
In the 162 years of the Cup’s history, this is only the third time (after 1920 and 1983) that the suspense has lasted until the final race. The bet, for Larry Ellison, boss of the USA team, was well and truly won: the Cup, in these exceptional catamarans equipped with rigid wings, was the most spectacular in history, and the quality of the television images was stunning.
We can’t imagine the Americans returning to monohulls for the Cup... The rigid wing seems to be established, as the show offered and the performance were both superb. The Challenger of Record is now known. The Hamilton Island Yacht Club in Australia will be representing the challengers and will be negotiating the basis of the 35th Cup with the defender. For the moment, the sights are set on an edition in 2017, to avoid competing with the Rio Olympics. We should have more information about the boats chosen in the first months of 2014...