27 Jun 2017

Toppling titans: NZ's history in the America's Cup

10:33 am on 27 June 2017

New Zealand's history contesting the oldest international sporting trophy has been marked by court battles, bashed silverware and some pretty remarkable sailing.

New Zealand took the Auld Mug today for the third time in its eight tilt in a race that was first held more than 160 years ago, in 1851.

Here are some of the highlights and lowlights of this country's 30 years in the America's Cup.

Sir Peter Blake, left, Sir Russell Coutts and Dean Barker.

Some of New Zealand's America's Cup notables: Sir Peter Blake, left, Sir Russell Coutts, centre, and Dean Barker Photo: Photosport / AFP

Fremantle - 1986/87

A New Zealand yacht first raced in the America's Cup qualifier - the Louis Vuitton Cup - in the summer of 1986 through to 1987.

Despite their lack of experience in the competition, the crew, skippered by Chris Dickson, was the top qualifier in the round-robin phase of the regatta after losing just one of 33 races.

The KZ 7 "Kiwi Magic" boat blitzed the French contingent 4-0 in the semis, setting up a final showdown with American boat Stars and Stripes 87.

Unfortunately for Dickson, the experience of the Stars and Stripes crew, led by Dennis Conner, was too much for New Zealand. The San Diego Yacht Club beat the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron 4-1 and went on to beat the Royal Perth Yacht Club's boat, Kookaburra III, in the America's Cup.

The KZ 7 "Kiwi Magic" boat, skippered by Chris Dickson, races Stars and Stripes.

The KZ 7 "Kiwi Magic" boat, skippered by Chris Dickson, races Stars and Stripes. Photo: Photosport

Mercury Bay Yacht Club challenge - 1988

KZ1, the massive carbon-fibre monohull racing the much faster catamaran.

KZ1, the massive carbon-fibre monohull racing the much faster catamaran. Photo: Supplied / Emirates Team New Zealand

After New Zealand's impressive America's Cup debut in Fremantle, the Mercury Bay Boating Club, led by merchant banker Sir Michael Fay, challenged the San Diego Yacht Club under the Cup's founding document - the Deed of Gift.

After months of tense negotiations and court challenges, the race eventually got under way in September 1988. Conner opted for the inherently faster multi-hulled catamaran - which was not expressly prohibited in the rules - while New Zealand used a 90-foot monohull.

The catamaran decimated the monohull, winning the regatta 2-0.

More court battles followed, with Sir Michael arguing the race was unfair, but they came to naught and the cup remained with San Diego Yacht Club.

Conner famously stormed out of a interview on the Holmes programme in its inaugural broadcast in 1989 after the American objected to questions from the show's host, Paul Holmes.

A skiff on steroids - 1992

The distinctive NZL20, the "skiff on steroids", was skippered by Rod Davis and made it through to the Louis Vuitton Challenger finals before the Italian Il Moro di Venezia came from 4-1 down to beat the Kiwis and win the right to challenge for the America's Cup

This marked the end of Fay and Richwhite's backing, and Sir Peter Blake took up the mantle.

Black Magic wins the Auld Mug - 1995

Sir Peter Blake gives the thumbs up during the ticker tape parade in Auckland.

Sir Peter Blake gives the thumbs up during the ticker tape parade in Auckland. Photo: AFP

After breezing through the Louis Vuitton Cup in San Diego, the Black Magic yacht, skippered by Russell Coutts, once again faced Dennis Conner and the Young America boat in the America's Cup.

Team New Zealand's momentum from the Louis Vuitton flowed into the America's Cup, and the team went on to win the Auld Mug in a clean sweep against Conner.

The reception back in New Zealand at the time was enormous, with broadcaster Peter Montgomery's famous line "The America's Cup is now New Zealand's Cup!" becoming the mantra.

The win was regarded as one of New Zealand's greatest sporting triumphs and was celebrated with a parade in downtown Auckland.

The regatta also featured the dramatic sinking of the oneAustralia boat, which split and sank in two minutes, though the crew escaped unharmed.

Team New Zealand syndicate head Peter Blake, right, embraces helmsman Russell Coutts after Black Magic 1 won the America's Cup in San Diego.

Team New Zealand syndicate head Sir Peter Blake, right, embraces helmsman Russell Coutts after Black Magic 1 won the America's Cup in San Diego. Photo: AFP

After claiming the cup and carrying it back to New Zealand, it was attacked by Māori activist Benjamin Nathan in its Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron clubroom.

The sledgehammer attack caused severe damage but repair work was carried out and the cup was restored. Nathan was found guilty and sentenced to two years and 10 months in prison.

The damaged America's Cup is inspected by Commadore John Heise of the New Zealand Yacht Squadron.

The damaged America's Cup is inspected by Commodore John Heise of the New Zealand Yacht Squadron. Photo: AFP

Team NZ defend the Cup against Prada - 1999-2000

The crew on Team New Zealand celebrates as they cross the finish line to win race five of America's Cup on Auckland's Hauraki Gulf against Italy's Prada Challenge, 02 March, 2000.

The Team New Zealand crew celebrate as they cross the finish line to win race five of America's Cup against Italy's Prada. Photo: AFP

Five years on from its famous victory, Team New Zealand found itself in unfamiliar territory - defending the America's Cup.

However, just like its challenge against Dennis Conner in 1995, Team New Zealand, led once again by Russell Coutts, produced a clean sweep on the Hauraki Gulf, beating Italian challengers Prada 5-0.

In doing so, New Zealand became the first team outside the US to successfully defend the Auld Mug.

Team New Zealand lose to Alinghi (and Coutts) - 2003

The 2003 America's Cup in Auckland was billed as a battle of good versus evil in New Zealand.

After their successful defence in 2000, skipper Russell Coutts, tactician Brad Butterworth and a number of the members of the Team New Zealand crew jumped ship to Swiss outfit Alinghi.

Alinghi skipper Russell Coutts with the Auld Mug taken from Team New Zealand.

Alinghi skipper Russell Coutts with the Auld Mug taken from Team New Zealand. Photo: AFP

The two yachts met in the final, pitting former teammates against each other as well as master and apprentice between Coutts and Team New Zealand's young skipper Dean Barker.

Everything that could go wrong seemed to do so for Team New Zealand, including the team's infamous mast snap in the penultimate race of the regatta.

Coutts' experience proved too good for Barker, Alinghi won the series 5-0, sending the Auld Mug to Europe for the first time.

Alinghi defend the Cup in Spain - 2007

The 2007 regatta was held in Valencia because Switzerland - the home of Alinghi - is landlocked.

With no Coutts in charge of defender Alinghi, there was renewed hope the America's Cup could be heading back down under after Team New Zealand breezed through the Louis Vuitton Cup, losing just two races throughout the semifinals and final.

However the Swiss defender proved superior, defending the Cup 5-2.

TNZ lose to defender Oracle after leading 8-1 - 2013

Let's keep this brief, the pain is still raw for so many of us.

Team New Zealand got out to an 8-1 lead against defenders Oracle in San Francisco.

The Kiwis took a lay day; big mistake, Oracle came back and won 9-8.

Emirates Team New Zealand skipper Dean Barker reacts at a press conference after Oracle Team USA won the 34th America's Cup on September 25, 2013 in San Francisco. AFP PHOTO/Josh Edelson

Emirates Team New Zealand skipper Dean Barker at the news conference after losing the America's Cup. Photo: AFP

The America's Cup comes home - 2017

And, today, the memory of those wounds was replaced with jubilation. Team New Zealand, led by 26-year-old Peter Burling, claimed the trophy back with a 7-1 win over Oracle Team USA, led once again by Australian Jimmy Spithill, in Bermuda.

The new defender has confirmed Italy's Luna Rossa as the official challenger of record, and intends to hold the next regatta in Auckland.

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