AUCKLAND, New Zealand — Landlocked Switzerland became the first European country to win the 152-year-old America's Cup on Sunday, a historic victory by a crew loaded with New Zealanders who had been branded as traitors.
Skipper Russell Coutts took the cup from the country he brought it to in 1995, steering the whimsically named sloop Alinghi to a five-race sweep against hard-luck Team New Zealand, the two-time defending champion.
On a perfect day on the Hauraki Gulf, between Rangitoto and Tiritiri Matangi islands, Coutts again outsailed his former protege, Dean Barker, and led the entire race to end the long, bitter regatta.
Several European tycoons tried unsuccessfully over 15 decades to take back the trophy that the yacht America won by beating a fleet of British schooners around the Isle of Wight in 1851. The one who finally won sailing's biggest prize was Alinghi boss Ernesto Bertarelli, a 37-year-old biotech billionaire who scooped up the best Kiwi sailors his money could buy.
"I am a New Zealander. Make no bones about that," Coutts said during the champagne-splashed tow back to port. "But I am immensely proud of what we've achieved at Alinghi. It's been a lot of hard work for me, and as a professional sailor, frankly, I'm proud of what I've done."
Alinghi's winning margin in Race 5 was 45 seconds.
The normally pokerfaced Coutts smiled and waved to a support boat as the black sloop with red swirls crossed the line.
Bertarelli, the first first-time challenger to win the cup, started the celebration a few hundred yards before the finish. He touched fists with tactician Brad Butterworth and shook hands with German-born strategist Jochen Schuemann, a three-time Olympic gold medalist.
The champagne arrived moments after the finish, and Alinghi hoisted a broom to celebrate the sweep.