Team New Zealand win America's Cup 7-3
Team New Zealand won the 36th America's Cup on Wednesday, beating Luna Rossa 7-3 in the best-of-13 series with a dominant 46-second victory in race 10 off the coast of Auckland.
Defending champions TNZ, with Bendigo sailor Glenn Ashby on board, retained the 'Auld Mug' - international sport's oldest trophy - four years after beating Oracle Team USA 7-1 at the 2017 match in Bermuda.
Ashby was TNZ's skipper then, and his latest success adds to previous America's Cup triumphs along with a Beijing Olympics silver medal and multiple World Cup triumphs.
"Its a pretty surreal feeling," Ashby said in a post-race interview. "Wonderful day for the team and very proud of the whole group.
"Hats off to Luna Rossa and the whole team, they've done a stellar job and racing with them has been immense fun."
Veteran Australian sailor Jimmy Spithill was co-helmsman of Luna Rossa, suffering a second successive America's Cup loss to TNZ.
Ironically, he broke New Zealand hearts in the 2013 match by captaining Oracle Team USA to eight successive race wins for a 9-8 victory in San Francisco.
"Obviously, pretty disappointed," said the Australian on Wednesday.
"I felt like we could have won a few more races against the Kiwis, but to be quite honest, at times it felt we were taking a knife to a gunfight.
"They did an incredible job, developed an incredible tool and package there ... All you can do is tip your hat."
It was Team NZ's fourth America's Cup triumph after winning in 1995, 2000 and 2017.
"It's unreal. Seeing all the people involved over three-four years, how many Kiwis out here supporting the campaign - messages from everyone, from the Prime Minister to high school kids, it means the world to us," said TNZ helmsman Peter Burling.
"We're blown away by what we've achieved as a group."
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said TNZ had made the country proud.
"We want to see it all over again in 2023. The government has already agreed that the successful America's Cup team will be supported to stay together while it plans its next defence of the Auld Mug," Ardern said in a statement.
Italy's hopes of winning sailing's showpiece event were dashed again in the nation's third America's Cup match, having lost 5-0 to TNZ in 2000 and 4-1 to the United States in 1992.
"Fantastic experience, (we) want to congratulate TNZ have done a fantastic job," said Luna Rossa co-helmsman Francesco Bruni.
"Also have to congratulate Luna Rossa, we proved to the world that we could do it and yeah, it was hard luck in the last couple of days but we did a great job as a team."
After fierce sailing in race nine on Tuesday, the decider ended up a procession for the home yacht as TNZ's superior speed left the Italians praying for a mistake from the defender.
There was no late twist, however, as TNZ rounded the final gate 49 seconds before the challenger and then crossed the line in 26 minutes and eight seconds, triggering partying on spectator boats and among fans crowded on the foreshore.
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