Someone with a better sense of the poetic than us once said that you don’t have to be a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.
Those words were obviously intended for Emirates Team New Zealand skipper Peter Burling, who made best possible use of light breezes on the azure water of Bermuda’s Great Sound to beat the U.S.A Team Oracle boat driven by Jimmy Spithill.
It was not all smooth sailing, but it winds that were both light and shifty, Burling made fewer mistakes and won twice against the Americans.
In one of those scoring vagaries that not even the most assiduous of buccaneers could fathom, despite winning twice, the Kiwis lead the series by the score of 1 – 0. Apparently, Oracle earned a bonus point for winning the qualifiers, so the first Emirates win served to erase that deficit. Perhaps it was just an instance of billionaire’s privilege that gave Larry Ellison’s boat the ability to lose twice and go down only one.
Emirates Team New Zealand needs to win eight races in total in order to take America’s Cup back to Auckland and the hallowed halls of the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron.
The Kiwi boat, designed for the light winds typical of Bermuda at this season of the year, is clearly the faster of the two, but Burling is not ready to crack a magnum of bubbly over the hulls just yet, as he and his team have headed back to base in the attempt to parse the data from the first two outings and design strategies to overcome some of the stumbles they made initially.
The Kiwis took the America’s Cup back to New Zealand for eight years, from 1995 until 2003.
If history should be invoked, the New Zealand team is not ready to get overly confident. In 2013, they had an eight races to one lead earned by skipper Dean Barker before Oracle won eight consecutive in San Francisco Bay to retain the Cup.