(Australian Associated Press)
Team New Zealand’s Australian skipper, Glenn Ashby, has laid to rest the ghosts of 2013 by helping the Kiwis to victory in the America’s Cup.
Ashby’s combination with helmsman Peter Burling powered the Kiwi team past Australian skipper Jimmy Spithill’s Team USA by 55 seconds to win the Cup match series 7-1 on Bermuda’s Great Sound on Monday.
The win exorcised the demons from four years ago in San Francisco, when the Kiwis squandered an 8-1 lead over Spithill’s Team USA to lose the challenge series 9-8.
Ashby, who is the sole remaining member of the 2013 crew, said it was unbelievable to finally win back the Auld Mug.
The 39-year-old Ashby has a low-key but critical role “trimming” the giant wing with a games console-type device.
“A few years ago, it was absolutely brutal for the team,” Ashby said.
“It was a hard pill to swallow. For myself and a lot of the other guys with the team this time round, it is a great redemption and a relief to right the wrongs of the last campaign.”
The Kiwis built steadily in light airs early morning after Team USA edged the start to take a narrow early lead in what would be the final race.
Team NZ hit the front at the second gate, extending that to 25 seconds at the third and adding another 10 seconds going through gate four.
The Americans cut the deficit slightly on the fifth leg, but the Kiwis were relentless over the final stages in shutting out a comprehensive win.
Not only was their pace better downwind, they also edged Team USA upwind for speed.
At 26, Burling supplants Spithill as the youngest helmsman to win sailing’s greatest prize in a competition that dates to 1851.
Spithill claimed the first of his two Cups as skipper aged 30 in 2010 with Team USA.
Burling could not keep the smile off his face.
“It’s unreal. It’s exactly what we came here to do,” he said.
“I definitely don’t think we’d be here without the heartache of San Francisco.”
An emotional Spithill, aiming to be the first Australian to win three Cups at the helm, paid tribute to the Kiwi effort.
“What a series – they made fewer mistakes and they fully deserve it, so our hats are off to them,” he said.
Burling and Ashby lifted the silver trophy together before it was passed around for swigs of champagne.
Ashby, a multihull expert and Olympic silver medallist, is the only non-New Zealander in his crew.
Team USA’s extended crew included Australians Spithill, tactician Tom Slingsby, Ky Hurst, Tom Johnson, Kyle Langford, Joey Newton, Sam Newton and Graeme Spence.
Meanwhile, Italy’s Luna Rossa has been chosen as the Challenger of Record for the 36th America’s Cup, Team New Zealand said.