At the conclusion of the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup Qualifiers on Saturday, Emirates Team New Zealand finished second in the final standings, one point behind eventual winners ORACLE TEAM USA.
ORACLE TEAM USA won the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup Qualifiers and, with that victory, go into the America’s Cup Match, presented by Louis Vuitton with a valuable point already banked.
However, with ORACLE TEAM USA’s place in the America’s Cup Match, presented by Louis Vuitton, already assured as the Defenders of the ‘Auld Mug’, Emirates Team New Zealand were handed the opportunity to select their opposition in the next stage after finishing as the next highest seeded team from the final Louis Vuitton America’s Cup Qualifiers standings.
Faced with the opportunity of taking on Artemis Racing, SoftBank Team Japan or Land Rover BAR, Emirates Team New Zealand helmsman Peter Burling finally ended the anticipation by revealing his answer at the final press conference of the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup Qualifiers.
“We have sat down as a team and decided we would like to pick Land Rover BAR,” said Peter Burling, who also took the opportunity to pass on the condolences of Emirates Team New Zealand to the family of New Zealand native Mary Elizabeth McKee, who passed away in Bermuda on Thursday night.
Turning back to his team’s choice of Land Rover BAR, Burling explained that, “We believe with the forecasts over the coming week that it represents our best chance of progressing through.”
In response, Land Rover BAR helmsman Sir Ben Ainslie, whose team finished third in the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup Qualifiers standings on six points, is prepared for the challenge ahead.
“It is going to be a close race, but to win the America’s Cup you have to beat all the teams,” said Ainslie.
“Emirates Team New Zealand have certainly proved through this qualifying round to be sailing really well. They are very fast and so for us it will be a real battle.
“However, we are up for it and looking forward to it.”
Emirates Team New Zealand’s decision to face Land Rover BAR means the remaining two teams to have progressed from the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup Qualifiers, SoftBank Team Japan and Artemis Racing will face off in the other Louis Vuitton America’s Cup Challenger Playoffs semi-final.
“We’ve done a lot of racing against Artemis Racing over the last 18 months and we’ve had some great battles,” said SoftBank Team Japan helmsman Dean Barker, whose side finished in fifth place with three points in the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup Qualifiers.
“We know they are a very strong team, I’m sure the racing is going to be very close and it will be interesting all the way through,” said Barker.
Their opponents Artemis Racing head into the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup Challenger Playoffs in good form, with a final day Louis Vuitton America’s Cup Qualifiers victory over Groupama Team France leaving them in fourth position on five points in the final standings.
“We are excited to be here,” said Artemis Racing’s helmsman Nathan Outteridge.
“We know that to go and beat ORACLE TEAM USA (in the America’s Cup Match, presented by Louis Vuitton) we now have to beat SoftBank Team Japan and Emirates Team New Zealand.
“We are up for the challenge and excited to go and do that. We’ve beaten them (SoftBank Team Japan) twice in the qualifying races and that gives the team some confidence moving forward.”
Both of the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup Challenger Playoffs semi-finals will be decided by a first to five points race format, with the winners of each Semi-Final then facing each other in the Finals of the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup Challenger Playoffs.
The eventual winner of that stage of the competition will then become the official Challenger to ORACLE TEAM USA for the 35th America’s Cup.
Meanwhile, after concluding the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup Qualifiers as winners, topping the table with nine points following back-to-back wins over Emirates Team New Zealand and Land Rover BAR on Saturday, ORACLE TEAM USA will take a crucial point advantage into the America’s Cup Match, presented by Louis Vuitton.
With a two week break from race action ahead, helmsman Jimmy Spithill and his team will continue to develop their boat and be ready to face the eventual winner of the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup Challenger Playoffs.
“That point could be critically important,” said Spithill following today’s racing.
“The guys in the shore team work almost 24 hour shifts to make sure our boat is always prepared and to see that as sailors is incredibly motivating.
“That gets us all hungry and makes us want to reward the guys on shore.
“I don’t think we have been consistent enough throughout the qualifying stage and so we will all be working hard to get the best out of what is available to us.
“In these next two weeks we will look at every component of our systems. We can’t afford to sit back.
“We need to be faster to win this America’s Cup. There is a lot left for the taking and we will be making all the steps to make sure we are more efficient in every way.”
Saturday not only saw the conclusion of the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup Qualifiers but also the conclusion of Groupama Team France’s involvement in the 35th America’s Cup after they failed to progress through to the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup Challenger Playoffs.
A final day defeat to Artemis Racing confirmed their position at the bottom of the standings but helmsman Franck Cammas believes the experience from this campaign will stand them in good stead for a possible future America’s Cup appearance.
“This campaign saw us take two good wins (over Land Rover BAR and Artemis Racing) and that will give us good momentum to continue to the next America’s Cup,” said the French helmsman in his last 35th America’s Cup press conference.
“I hope the next America’s Cup keeps the same format and same boats. With us already having our base, those things being the same will make it easier for our team to continue and perform at the next America’s Cup.”