Keeping the glory alive – 20 year Anniversary of Kiwi America’s Cup victory

Published on May 13th, 2015

(May 13, 2015) – There have been few, possibly no other, sporting wins that captured the nation of New Zealand quite like the 1995 America’s Cup. Kiwis sat glued to their television sets as Russell Coutts and Team New Zealand swept all before them in the challenger series, before Black Magic rocketed to ultimate glory over Dennis Conner, and his Stars and Stripes team in San Diego, CA.

Even back then the America’s Cup had sometimes seemed in danger of being sunk by the controversy and antics of those who want to hold it by dubious schemes. But the romance of the trophy remained, whatever arrogance from the defenders, and, sometimes, challengers. By winning it New Zealand were transported from their narrow sporting stage to the great halls of worldly endeavor.

It was only about 10 years before that an America’s Cup challenge looked completely beyond New Zealand’s reach financially, technically and experience-wise. But when Australia became the first nation to successfully challenge for the America’s Cup in 1983, there was sudden belief among New Zealanders that they could do it as well.

While they were beat by Conner in 1987, the Kiwis learned a lot of lessons from the campaign, which were further extended upon in the 1992 challenge in San Diego. A lot of other things changed in those 10 years as well. Coutts and Chris Dickson won world match-racing titles, while New Zealand became a strong presence in the Whitbread round the world yacht race, gaining further experience sailing big, powerful boats.

In 1995 all the stars aligned for Team New Zealand, they had an inspirational leader in Peter Blake, a rock-star crew led by Coutts and a savvy design team. It is believed that the success in 1995 goes back to the tone Peter Blake set right from the start. His philosophy was simple, the winning of it would be designing a better boat, building a better boat and then sailing it better. And that was the focus all the way along.

Team NZ did not use their breakthrough boat, NZL-32, until the semifinals of the Louis Vuitton Cup, instead sailing their second yacht, NZL-38, which was more conservative in design, through the round robin stages of the challenger series.

The team went on to sweep US defender Stars & Stripes, led by Dennis Conner, 5-0 in the Cup match, a win that was greeted with widespread celebrations around the country. The team returned to a heroes’ welcome, with hundreds of thousands turning out to salute the crew in tickertape parades around the country.

The win also highlighted the New Zealand marine industry’s place at the forefront of innovation, inspired a new generation of sailors, and sparked the beginning of a complicated love story between New Zealand and the America’s Cup.

“That legacy is not lost on us, we remain strong, we remain committed and we want to bring the America’s Cup back. That’s why we exist,” said Grant Dalton, reflecting on 1995. It is a legacy team boss Dalton is fighting to keep alive.

Source New Zealand Herald

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