Team New Zealand helmsman Peter Burling wasn’t surprised the racing to find a challenger for the America’s Cup was one-sided.
Team New Zealand helmsman Peter Burling and Luna Rossa skipper Max Sirena. Photo: Studio Borlenghi
Luna Rossa thrashed Team UK, winning seven races to one, to secure the silverware in the Challenger Selection Series finals.
The dominant Italians will now meet Team New Zealand in the best-of-13 America’s Cup racing starting on 6 March.
Even though Burling admitted not really knowing which team would progress from the challenger series – the end result was not a shock.
“Looking back at the beginning of the challenger series we geniunely had no idea who we would be versing,” Burling said.
However, Burling described the challenger of record’s route to the 36th America’s Cup as “pretty easy”.
It’s the second time in their six attempts that Luna Rossa are through to the Match.
“Someone gets on a roll and it’s pretty hard to unsettle them,” Burling said.
“But from all of the recon we’ve done we believed Luna Rossa had a pretty sizeable advantage over INEOS in the lighter air and I think that really showed in those lighter air races, just how they didn’t really need to do much but just sailed away.
“I think it was great to see INEOS take a race off them, Luna Rossa had a slighter faster package which made their life pretty easy.”
While Luna Rossa were unstoppable in the light winds, Burling doesn’t know – or want to say – the conditions on Auckland’s Waitemata Harbour that will suit the defenders best when the Auld Mug is on the line.
America’s Cup teams Luna Rossa and Team New Zealand. Photo: Emirates Team New Zealand
“It’s a tricky one, I’m not 100 per cent sure,” he said.
“Definitely during the Christmas Cup we would have been strongest against Luna Rossa in the strong breeze but we’ve made some pretty vast steps forward in the light air since that as well so we’re pretty happy with how we’re going.”
Even before Luna Rossa had sealed their spot in the America’s Cup, the team’s sailors were commenting on how fast they thought Team New Zealand’s boat Te Rehutai was looking.
Burling doesn’t disagree. But just how fast their modified foiling monohull is will only really become apparent when the racing properly begins.
“It’s definitely a good step on from where we were in December, especially in a lot of the trickier parts of the spectrum.”
Success in the starting box has translated to wins during the lead-up racing and Burling will be up against an aggressive Jimmy Spithill.
After some shaky starts when Te Rehutai was last racing during the Christmas Cup, Burling said he had put in the practice and learned off the other challengers.
“Looking back at the Christmas Cup a lot of the issues were around getting comfortable with what you could and couldn’t do with the boat, whether it was boat handling or how quickly it did or didn’t accelerate, at that stage we had only had Te Rehutai in the water for a little under a month so we were just really out of the back of commissioning and we were just making sure we got the boat around the track safely and in one piece.
“But now we’ve really had that extra bit of time under the belt to really push the limits and what you can do in the maneuvers and starts and make sure we’ve got the correct strategy for the correct situation.
“It’s been a whole heap of learning, watching from afar, as to where other teams have made mistakes and improvements or good strategy verse bad. Also we’ve got our own bits and pieces we’re working on through practicing on our simulator or racing against our chase boat.”
With the practising nearly over, it is not long until Team New Zealand can go racing with their new boat and test it against the best the rest of the world has to offer.