HAMILTON, BDA – You know the notion that Kiwis are a bit stiff and somewhat uppity, compared to, say, Aussies and Seppos (a term of endearment Aussies use for Yanks – "septic tank, rhymes with yank")? Well, Emirates Team New Zealand helmsman Peter “Pistol Pete” Burling (NZL) may have just dispelled it. Perhaps the best photo yet to come out of America’s Cup 35 is the one from yesterday’s broadcast mixed zone (a bad idea, by the way) that shows the clean-shaven Burling, with his nice haircut and all, photobombing a scruffy and subdued ORACLE TEAM USA skipper Jimmy Spithill (AUS).
Burling had just beaten Spithill for the fourth straight time to take a 3-0 lead (yes, the “bonus point” is another bad idea) in the first-to-seven regatta. After saying the careful and usual things at the news conference, you know, that there’s still a lot of work to be done in order to keep, you know, the American-flagged crew from catching up, etc., etc., Burling was clearly loose and relaxed as he passed behind Spithill and flashed the "V" for victory sign.
Peter Burling photobombs Jimmy Spithill as he was being interviewed by Nic "Sailor Girl" Douglass after yesterday's racing.
Our take: Good on ya, Mate!. It’s good that the Kiwis are showing some emotion. They showed a little more than they normally do at the end of Race 4 on Sunday, another runaway jaunt around the Great Sound. And then came the photobomb. This isn’t a sign of cockiness by any means. It’s a 26-year-old having a little fun while representing a team that hasn’t always done that.
Remember 2013, when the Kiwis, then led by Dean "Downer" Barker, reached match point at 8-1 and then imploded? Barker’s a nice guy, a great sailor, but Dynamite Dean he’s not. On lay days, OTUSA would be out training on San Francisco Bay – to quote our Ed., that "reliably windy and iconically beautiful venue" where this regatta should have been sailed – while the Kiwis were behind closed doors at their compound on Piers 30-32.
This might be closer to the 1995 whitewash of Dennis Conner by BLACK MAGIC, led by the late, great Peter Blake and skippered by Russell Coutts. On lay days, Conner & crew would head out onto the Pacific Ocean for futile practice sessions while Coutts and some of his mates would be enjoying San Diego’s finer golf courses. The Kiwis won 5-0 to hoist the Auld Mug for the first time.
We’ll know a lot more by Saturday night, which, by the way, could bring more light winds. With two races scheduled Saturday and Sunday, if the OTUSA boys don’t start taking the hide of ETNZ, it could be over Sunday night, 7-0. Yep, shades of 1995.
And then we'll see some real emotion from the boys from Down Under, and their flock of fans here in Bermuda that is growing by the day.