One thing was certain after Team New Zealand retained the America’s Cup on Wednesday: beaten Italian challenger Luna Rossa will be back to try again.
The team has twice reached the America’s Cup match in its 21-year history and on both occasions — 20 years apart — has lost to the defender, Team New Zealand, in the waters around Auckland.
On the first occasions in 2000, it lost 5-0 in a best-of-nine race series. On Wednesday its latest pursuit of the America’s Cup ended when it was beaten 7-3 by Team New Zealand in the 36th America’s Cup match, a best-of-13-race series.
While there was an immediate sense of disappointment when Team New Zealand crossed the line to win Wednesday’s deciding race by 46 seconds to retain the Cup, there didn’t appear to be any dejection within the Italian team. Instead, there were nascent signs of a new determination to challenge again, whether it be in three or four years time, in New Zealand or elsewhere.
The first step will be to keep together the nucleus of the team and retain the support of its principal backer, the Prada fashion magnate Patrizio Bertelli, who has followed many other wealthy people in being captured by the lure of the Cup.
“I can say it’s not finished and I’m sure Luna Rossa and Mr. Bertelli will try again,” Luna Rossa co-helmsman Francesco Bruni said. “We were so close. We learned so much. I really wish we have another chance. We demonstrated we are a great team.
“Losing is never fun, but I think the spirit of the team was the best thing. It’s been a great campaign, a great campaign.”
From the seventh race, when Team New Zealand pulled off the first pass of the series — and perhaps before — Luna Rossa knew the defender had a faster boat. That maybe the worst experience an America’s Cup sailor can have: to know no matter what the crew does, if they make no mistakes and sail to the limits of their ability they likely will still lose.
“To be honest it felt like we were taking a knife to a gun fight,” co-helmsman Jimmy Spithill said, adding that Team New Zealand “did an incredible job, developed an incredible tool and package.”
“All you can do is tip your hat, just say ‘really well done’ to them,” he said. “Champion team and really deserving champions.”
“We made some mistakes but we were against a very strong team, a very strong boat,” Bruni said. “We squeezed every centimeter from our boat but it was not enough. Congratulations Team New Zealand.”
Spithill said Luna Rossa “just refused to give up,” going back the racecourse over six days with the confidence they could win races and stretch the match further.
“Everyone on board and the guys ashore, every day we believed we could win races and take it one at a time,” he said. “But at the end of the day the better team won.”
Spithill indicated his involvement with the America’s Cup is not over, that his future may be with Luna Rossa, which had embraced the Australian as one of a few non-Italians in the team.
“I love a fight, I live competing,” he said. “That’s my fourth Cup final in a row. Two wins, two losses, I can’t leave it there. I just have to tip it the right way.”
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