New Zealand’s 35 year love-hate affair

Published on March 1st, 2021

by Todd Niall, STUFF
No team in the modern era of the America’s Cup has a pedigree as long and impressive as Team New Zealand – something which has fed strong local interest in the quest for the Auld Mug.

The team’s DNA stretches back to the country’s audacious debut in Fremantle in 1986, with merchant banker Michael Fay’s three-boat New Zealand Challenge, peaking with KZ7.

The use of fibreglass helped KZ7 with Chris Dickson at the helm, to storm through to the challenger final, succumbing to wily San Diegan Dennis Conner, who avenged his historic 1983 Cup loss to Australia.

Riding the heady mood of economic de-regulation, the KZ7 campaign captured the nation, with an all-star line-up of musicians recording the single “Sailing Away” as a cup anthem.

The “Kiwi Magic” campaign launched a 35-year quest, through three cup wins, four defeats in the cup final, and twice stumbling in the challenger final.

The most infamous was Fay’s 1988 “Big Boat” challenge, in which he pitched the 90-foot KZ1 in a head-to-head duel with Conner, who controversially turned up in a catamaran, winning easily.

Fay briefly won the cup in court, but lost on appeal, and in 1992 funded a traditional campaign for San Diego, where NZL20 reached 4-1 over Il Moro di Venezia in the challenger final.

The Italians successfully challenged the legality of NZL20’s bowsprit, the Kiwis lost a victory, removed the bowsprit, and lost the next four races, with Fay giving the game away.

Round-the-world winner Peter Blake (above), led the first Team New Zealand-branded challenge in 1995 in San Diego, meeting the nation’s old foe Dennis Conner in the Cup match.

Russell Coutts and tactician Brad Butterworth were at the business end of NZL32 for the 5-0 win to finally bring the Auld Mug to New Zealand. – Full report

More information:
• America’s Cup format, standings, and how to watch online: click here.
• Complete America’s Cup coverage: click here
• Additional America’s Cup information: click here

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