AUCKLAND, New Zealand — Helmsmen Peter Burling and James Spithill have done their best to explain the inexplicable; the bizarre eighth race of the 36th America’s Cup Match in which Team New Zealand came from more than four minutes behind to beat Italy’s Luna Rossa and take a 5-3 lead in the series.
Team New Zealand demonstrated a clear boat speed advantage Monday to achieve the first pass of the Match in the seventh race, overtaking after losing the start to win by 58 seconds.
But the lasting talking point of the series will be the eighth race when Team New Zealand went from four minutes behind to more than four minutes in front.
A light and shifting breeze turned the eighth race into something unprecedented in the Cup’s 170-year history. First Team New Zealand dropped off its foils after gybing in Luna Rossa’s wind shadow and the Italian team sailed away to a massive advantage.
Then Luna Rossa sailed into a wind hole at the top of the course, came to a halt and Team New Zealand, foiling again, sailed past it and went on to win by 3 minutes, 55 seconds.
The day was a major blow to Italy’s chances of winning the America’s Cup for the first time. After first experiencing Team New Zealand’s speed advantage in a moderate breeze, it lost its chance to keep the series level in a frail breeze and on a race course full of wind holes. Team New Zealand needs two more victories to claim the first-to-seven-wins series.
Luna Rossa’s Australian-born helmsman Jimmy Spithill said the Italian team was not demoralized.
“I don’t view today as a lost opportunity. The way I view it, you’re either winning or you’re learning,” Spithill said. “So I think we learned a lot today and that’s going to help us a lot as a team and it’s going to help us win races.
“I can tell you right now, there’s no one at the base curled up in the corner crying it out. No one’s going to throw the towel in.
“We have to tip our hats to New Zealand for sailing two good races. But for us it’s not over. We’re not at the trophy presentation yet.”
Peter Burling said Team New Zealand had given Luna Rossa a good chance to level the series in the eighth race but rallied “on a pretty tense day for us.”
“We really needed a mistake from the Luna Rossa guys,” Burling said. “We didn’t really think it was going to happen but our luck was good.
“I think it was a pretty amazing effort by the whole team, especially the grinding group, to get the boat back on the foils even four minutes behind and keep charging forward.”
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