For New Zealanders the America’s Cup isn’t just the most important regatta, it’s much more. Before the Europeans arrived in 1842, New Zealand was inhabited by the Maoris, navigators of Polynesian origin. From 1987 on, Emirates Team New Zealand’s constant commitment in the America’s Cup has been a way of showing the world the stamina of a people and the passion of an entire nation. The whole country prided itself on the successive victories in the America’s Cup in 1995 and 2000, because the team brought a great trophy from the other side of the world to Auckland, the city of sails.
The New Zealanders made their debut in 1987, in the Australian waters of Fremantle, in a hitherto unseen fibreglass boat, which was nicknamed Plastic Fantastic. Up to then, boats had been built in wood or aluminium: fibreglass was a world first. Emirates Team New Zealand team turned out to be well-trained and competitive, winning thirty-seven out of thirty-eight matches. However, Team Dennis Conner’s Americans won the final of the Louis Vuitton Cup, and the Cup returned to the United States.
The next challenge was in 1988, set by that same New Zealand Yacht Club that Dennis Conner had beaten the previous year. Dennis Conner, with his revolutionary catamaran called Stars and Stripes, beat Emirates Team New Zealand. 1995 was the year of New Zealand’s victory, with Black Magic, skippered by Russell Coutts, beating New York Yacht Club’s Young America. This victory was the result of the hard work begun in 1987 and was coveted not just by a sailing crew but by a whole nation. So the New Zealanders lost only one of the forty-three matches of the Louis Vuitton Cup and beat the Americans by a sensational 5-0.
1992 was the year Raul Gardini’s Italian team of the Moro di Venezia won the Louis Vuitton Cup, becoming the official challenger and the first Italian boat to race in the America’s Cup. 2000 was the second year that an Italian boat won the Louis Vuitton Cup. However, the New Zealand team turned out to be too tough a rival for the Italians of the Luna Rossa, and they entered the history of the America’s Cup as the first non-American country to have won and also defended the Cup.