HAMILTON, Bermuda — Emirates Team New Zealand’s Peter Burling wheeled his 50-foot catamaran into controlling position in the prestart of Race 8 of the America’s Cup and then gave a quick wave with his right hand to Jimmy Spithill and the boys on Oracle Team USA.
Burling said later he was merely pleased that he nailed the maneuver that allowed the Kiwis to sail away to its second win Sunday on the Great Sound and reach match point in sailing’s marquee regatta at 6-1.
Burling, though, is one cool cat at age 26, an Olympic gold and silver medalist steering a crazy fast cat. Perhaps looking to one-up Spithill in gamesmanship, Burling might as well have been waving goodbye to two-time defending champion Oracle Team USA, which is owned by software tycoon Larry Ellison and crewed mostly by Australians.
The Kiwis need one more win to humble Ellison’s squad and reclaim the oldest trophy in international sports for the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron in Auckland, which held it from 1995-2003.
The clincher could come Monday, when two races are scheduled.
New Zealand, a small, sailing-mad island nation, will no doubt be holding its breath. Kiwi fans who have been getting up at 5 a.m. Down Under to watch the races on TV remember the soul-crushing collapse in 2013. Team New Zealand, then led by Dean Barker, reached match point at 8-1 only to let Oracle win eight straight races to complete one of the greatest comebacks in sports to keep the Auld Mug.
This seems to be a different Kiwi crew.
“To be honest, it excites us. We really enjoy that pressure,” Burling said. “We’re really excited about being able to go out there tomorrow and put it all on the line again. I think we showed today that we’re a pretty tough bunch. We got asked some questions yesterday and I feel we answered them with our performance on the water.”
After splitting Saturday’s two races, Spithill piled on the Kiwis. He noted that the New Zealanders had taken a few days off during a…