By Alexander Smith
HAMILTON, Bermuda (Reuters) – Peter Burling is looking forward to “a pretty cool few weeks” sharing his America’s Cup win with the rest of New Zealand after celebrating the conclusion of a grueling campaign with his opponent Jimmy Spithill in Bermuda.
The 26-year-old calmly steered his way into yachting history on Monday, demolishing Spithill’s Oracle Team USA to win the trophy which is a national obsession in New Zealand and in the process become the youngest ever sailor to do so.
“It was our goal and dream to come here and win the America’s Cup and to have it sitting there and have it in the morning meeting when we all got together after a bit of recovery from last night, we’re just blown away,” Burling told Reuters.
Burling, an Olympic gold and silver medalist, was helmsman on Emirates Team New Zealand and the face of the crew during the campaign to wrest the “Auld Mug” from its U.S. holders.
The celebrations following the win in the New Zealand team’s “shed” where they have kept their space-age 50-foot catamaran and “wing” sail were “pretty low key”, with the crew only realizing how drained they were once the adrenaline wore off.
“We finally realized how tired we were and how most of us didn’t really have that much energy to carry on,” Burling said on Tuesday at his headquarters in Bermuda’s historic Dockyard.
Burling said the losing U.S. team led by his “good friend” Spithill, who until the Kiwi victory had been the youngest ever helmsman to win the oldest trophy in international sport, had joined the New Zealanders in their celebration.
“They came over and said congrats last night and we invited them in. It was pretty cool to be able to share it with them.”
And any antagonism between the two during the competition on Bermuda’s Great Sound was “a bit of friendly banter”.
A beaming Burling, with the normally closely-guarded silver trophy standing behind him, said it was “impossible to compare” the victory with the gold medal he and fellow crew member Blair Tuke won in Rio de Janeiro last year in the 49er skiff class.
“To be able to lift that and bring it home to New Zealand, it’s going to be a pretty cool few weeks sharing it with all our fans and friends and family back home,” Burling said, adding he had received a lot of messages from supporters at home.
“We definitely had a bit of a bumpy road at times, we faced a bit of adversity at times,” Burling said, adding that the spectacular capsize which nearly ended the Kiwi campaign during the semi-final did not haunt him “at all”.
“These boats are incredibly complicated and fast and incredibly technical. The harder you push it the more likely you are to have a crash,” the tall sailor, with his trademark reddish stubble, added.
“We’re really proud of what we have managed to achieve as a group,” Burling said, adding that his message to the next generation of America’s Cup sailors was to get out and “have fun” as he and his team had done sailing their catamaran.
(Editing by Toby Davis)