HAMILTON, Bermuda/LONDON, June 12 (Reuters) - Sweden’s Artemis Racing are no strangers to staging dramatic comebacks but their encounter with Emirates Team New Zealand on Monday in Bermuda will be their toughest challenge yet.
The Swedish crew skippered by Australian sailing star Nathan Outteridge and managed by British Olympian Iain Percy must win three races in a row to overhaul Peter Burling’s New Zealand and clinch the right to challenge defenders Oracle Team USA.
“We have come back from worse before,” Percy told BT Sports in a televised interview after going 4-2 down on Sunday in their first-to-five series with New Zealand.
Widely seen as the crew showing the best form in practice in the lead up to the 35th America’s Cup, Artemis overcame a bigger deficit against SoftBank Team Japan last week to earn a place in the challenger play-off final against New Zealand.
Their 50-foot (15-metre) catamaran ‘Big Blue’ has shown it is capable of beating all comers on Bermuda’s Great Sound, claiming notable wins against Oracle Team USA during qualifying.
While Outteridge has managed to get the team off to some stunning sling-shot starts, the team have struggled with consistency.
They lost one race against New Zealand on Saturday when Outteridge, darting from one side of his boat to the other during a high-speed manoeuvre, skidded and plunged overboard.
The Olympic gold medallist in the demanding 49er skiff class was plucked from the water but not before coming within a boat’s length of being run down by the New Zealand “cat”.
Outteridge, 31, and Burling, 26, know each other’s strengths and weaknesses well but they are more accustomed to head-to-head battles in relatively tiny two-man 49er skiffs than in the giant America’s Cup Class boats.
While Outteridge won Olympic gold in 2012, Burling got his revenge in 2016 in Rio, relegating his rival to silver.
Both men are now sailing with their 49er partners in the America’s Cup competition, with Burling’s crew Blair Tuke joining him in the New Zealand boat and Outteridge’s team mate Iain Jensen aboard the Artemis catamaran as a “grinder”.
If Artemis do manage to turn the tide against New Zealand on Monday when racing is scheduled to start at just after 1700 GMT, they will open the possibility to Sweden becoming only the fifth country to win the “Auld Mug”.
So far only the U.S., Australia, New Zealand and Switzerland have won it since the schooner “America” first claimed the coveted trophy in British waters in 1851.
Artemis was founded in 2006 by Swedish oil trading magnate and sailor Torbjorn Tornqvist, co-founder of the world’s largest independent commodities trading house Gunvor, and is one of the best financed of the America’s Cup challengers.
Editing by Clare Fallon