America's Cup: Team New Zealand beat Oracle to reclaim Auld Mug in Bermuda
The America's Cup is coming back to New Zealand.
Four years after falling agonisingly short against Oracle Team USA, Team New Zealand buried the ghosts of San Francisco as they beat the Americans by 55 seconds in race nine to record an emphatic 7-1 series victory.
Having dominated Oracle throughout the battle of Bermuda, the Kiwis went into Monday's (Tuesday NZ time) race in the exact same position as 2013; one win away from glory with a seemingly unassailable lead.
But unlike 2013, there was to be no epic collapse this time around.
Led by cool-headed skipper Glenn Ashby and brilliant young helmsman Peter Burling the Kiwis produced another flawless performance, grabbing the lead in the second leg to once again leave Oracle in their wake.
"I don't think we'd be here without the heartache of San Francisco," said Burling, who was sailing in his first America's Cup campaign.
"It's unreal, this is exactly what we came here to do. I'm just on top of world.
"It's been three years of hard work, probably 100 people working at one time at this goal."
It was a truly remarkable campaign from the Kiwis, who overcame a terrifying capsize in the challenger semifinals to win the Auld Mug for the first time since 2000.
While Burling has been the face of the team, multihull expert Ashby, the only surviving member of the 2013 crew, was the glue that held it together and Burling played tribute to the 39-year-old and the rest of his teammates.
"Obviously he plays massive part in what we do but Blair (Tuke) as well trimming the foils, everyone in whole team," he added. "You can see how much we're all ecstatic about what we managed to achieve here.
"It's going to be a good night."
New Zealand's chief tormentor in San Francisco, Oracle skipper Jimmy Spithill again did all he could to unsettle his rivals both on and off the water.
However, the 'Pitbull' was gracious in defeat, conceding that they were simply beaten by the better team.
"We're obviously disappointed but first of all full credit to Team New Zealand, what a series," the Australian said. "They made fewer mistakes and they fully deserve it so our hats are off to them.
"We were obviously focused getting that lead at the first mark and the boys did a great job. But unfortunately they were the quicker boat today downwind for sure. I thought upwind the boats were more competitive but downwind they had the speed."
After two heavy defeats on Sunday (Monday NZ time), Spithill faced questions as whether he would hand the wheel over to his tactician today.
But while he was on the helm as usual, the 37-year-old said he had not contemplated his future.
"I've just spent so much time and energy really focusing on one day at a time," Spithill said.
"I really want to go and thank the entire team and we'll take it from there."
Having been embarrassed in the starts by Burling on Sunday (Monday NZ time), Spithill cleaned up his act to lead by three seconds at the first mark.
It did not last for long, though, as a crucial gybe from Team NZ saw them overtake the Americans and reach the lay line first at gate two.
While shifty conditions meant no lead was safe, New Zealand made significant gains throughout the third leg to make the turn 26 seconds in front.
In a search for more breeze, the Americans conceded more ground as the teams went upwind for the final time.
Spithill had caused New Zealand problems during the fifth leg in previous races but, while they managed to cut the deficit by 10 seconds, Burling and co remained solid throughout to seal their place in history.