New Zealand became the first nation to successfully win back to back titles in the BMW Sailing Cup World Final when a young crew led by Phil Robertson swept to victory on their home waters in Auckland today.
In winning the prestigious amateur regatta in a field of seven nations, Robertson and his crew successfully defended the title won in Italy last year by another New Zealand crew led by Aucklander Roger Pagani.
Once again, conditions were testing, with an 18 knot south-westerly blowing against a strong incoming tide causing Auckland's Waitemata Harbour to develop a challenging chop. The programme for the day involved completing the semi-finals of the match racing and then progressing directly to the finals.
With even worse weather threatening, the Race Committee started proceedings half an hour early and the teams got through their work quickly, with Team Portugal defeating Team Italy 2-0 to advance to the final, while Team New Zealand dispatched Team Malta by the same score.
This set up a best-of-five final between Team New Zealand and Team Portugal, while Teams Malta and Italy sailed a best-of-three petite final for third and fourth place, which Italy won in two straight matches. The final got off to a rocky start for Team Portugal when they collected two penalties in the pre-start, one for a port-starboard incident and one for failing to keep clear in the windward position. 'That got the nerves going a bit,' admitted Portuguese skipper John Tavares. 'We are still learning about the match racing rules. We made some small mistakes, but in a contest like this you pay a high price.'
New Zealand skipper Phil Robertson noted: 'We came out firing in the first match and tried to stamp our authority early on.'
The Portuguese team were unable to recover and the score ticked over to 1-0 in favour of New Zealand. In the second match, New Zealand led away from the start line and extended all the way to go to match point on 2-0. In the third match, Team Portugal made it a much closer battle, keeping the action close all the way, but New Zealand crossed the line ahead to clinch the title.
After observing tradition by being thrown into the harbour, a drenched Phil Robertson was delighted with the win 'This is a great one to add to our sailing CV,' he said. 'My crew – Garth Ellingham, Sam Bell, Logan Fraser and Brad Farrand – was really superb. We sail together a lot. We are a tight group of guys.
'This is our first regatta of the year, so we are off to a good start. We have probably done a bit more match racing than the other teams and we were in boats we are used to and on our home waters, so that all helped.'
Roger Pagani, who won this title and with it the specially designed perpetual BMW trophy in Lake Garda, Italy last year, was on hand to congratulate the New Zealand team for successfully keeping the trophy for at least one more year.
John Tavares of Portugal, speaking for his crew of Tiago Leal, Helder Basilio, André Basilio and Joáo Baganha, was gracious in defeat. 'Our first struggle was to make it through to the semi-finals,' he said. 'Once we had achieved that, we turned our attention to the finals. When we beat Team Italy, our motivation was very high. We were manoeuvring the boat well and our helmsman, Helder Basilio, who has more match racing experience, was doing a good job.
'But New Zealand were too strong. They are more used to match racing than us and they sailed really well, but we are very happy with our result.'
Regatta Director, Russell Green said the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron Race Management team did an excellent job of completing a full programme of racing in difficult conditions. As the yachts came off the water, the weather deteriorated once again, with 35-knot winds and rain sweeping across the harbour.
Speaking on behalf of BMW, Ulrike Hieble, BMW Sportsmarketing Yachtsport manager, said BMW was proud to have brought the fourth Sailing Cup World Final to Auckland. 'This city is known around the world as the City of Sails,' she said. 'We had seven teams competing and the level of sailing was very high.
'Sailing represents values of teamwork, competition, challenge, environmental awareness and aesthetics, which also match BMW's values,' she said. 'We have seen these teams from all over the world come together in a great spirit of friendly and fair competition.'
Team New Zealand bt Team Portugal 3-0
Team Italy bt Team Malta 2-0
1 Team New Zealand
2 Team Portugal
3 Team Italy
4 Team Malta
5 Team Spain
6 Team Hong Kong
7 Team Germany