New Zealand Sailing claimed the inaugural Red Bull Youth America's Cup trophy Wednesday in San Francisco, finishing fourth in what would be the only race of the day — giving them a total of 57 points for the event — before high winds forced the cancelation of the final race.
The Kiwis got off to a rough start Wednesday, hanging near the back of the 10-boat pack for the first half of the race before making a push to claim enough points to stay on top of the overall standings.
Full Metal Jacket Racing, also from New Zealand, finished second with 45 points, with ROFF/Cascais Sailing Team of Portugal taking third with 44 points.
What was billed as an international competition served to show the New Zealand teams one step ahead of everyone else at this point.
"It's pretty cool battling against one of the guys you've kind of battled against growing up," New Zealand skipper Peter Burling said of facing Will Tiller's Full Metal Jacket squad. "It's a pretty good in-house rivalry between us and the FMJ boys. We've got one of their former members on our boat, we kind of know them all pretty well. It's been pretty good fun."
New Zealand finished first in just two of the nine races, earning back-to-back wins Tuesday, but its consistency throughout the series won the event.
"We really haven't had much sailing together as a crew but we all really grew into it this week," Burling said. "I think the results show that as well that we were actually getting a lot better during the racing, and we feel a lot more comfortable with some time together now."
It has been a good year for Burling, who earned a silver medal representing New Zealand at the 2012 Olympics in London in the 49er class.
San Francisco's representative in the event, American Youth Sailing Force, fell from a tie for second heading into the day to fifth following an eighth-place finish in Wednesday's race.
With the apparent success of the event in its first incarnation, organizers said they feel the young sailors are ready for the next step.
"I think these guys are ready to go out on the big boats and compete against the big guys," RBYAC Sports Director Roman Hagara said.
The final race, which would have been worth double points, was canceled when winds stayed over the 18-knot limit well past the scheduled start time.