Greg Pearson: America's Cup 2017 - Team New Zealand win one for the ages

OPINION: Consider this. Three weeks ago Peter Burling sat huddled in the cockpit of Aotearoa, Emirates Team New Zealand's boat, and some feared the entire campaign would lie in tatters on Bermuda's Great Sound.

The dramatic pitchpole incident in the Challenger Semi Finals was the thing of nightmares for sailing fans back in New Zealand, but remarkably the Kiwi sailors kept their composure and after a hard night in the shed, the boat was ready to sail the very next day.

The weather gods gave them an extra day for repairs thankfully, but they returned to racing to complete the series win over Land Rover BAR, knock over Artemis Racing to win the Challenger series and set up a rematch with Oracle Team USA.

And now the America's Cup will return to Auckland. With this morning's 55 second win in race nine, Team NZ completed a 7-1 victory to end Oracle's seven year reign.

It caps a remarkable campaign and consigns the  heartbreak of San Francisco to history, emphatically turning the page and writing a new chapter in the Cup's long history.

Since the yacht named America claimed the trophy that would later bear its name, only six challengers have prevailed in 35 attempts. This morning's victory deserves to rank among the best Cup wins, including the history making triumph in 1995 by New Zealand's team.

 Admittedly there's little common ground between New Zealand's successful challenges. The hurdles the latest incarnation of Team NZ have had to overcome were arguably greater.

Some of it, like the post-San Francisco fall-out were of their own doing, but they've gone up against tougher opposition - on and off the water. The America's Cup's unique set up has always allowed the defender to put things up in their favour but never has the playing field been so unevenly tilted against a challenger.

The ground underneath them constantly shifted as Oracle and its friendly group voted through a number of rule changes, always slanted against the Kiwis. Team NZ were even forced to take organisers to arbitration after the Qualifiers regatta was stripped from Auckland, and they're still waiting for that to be fully settled.

 When movement toward Bermuda finally happened it was a giant leap rather than baby steps. They had the numbers to back it up but the decision to break convention and go with the cycle grinders set them apart from the rest of the fleet.

But it's not just the pedal grinding system - Glenn Ashby's wing trimming "x-box" control system has been described as revolutionary, and the Kiwis light wind prowess had Oracle clamouring to copy their set up during the five days off after being trounced on the first two days of the Cup Match.

The cyclors had added benefits, including a free set of hands for Blair Tuke to manage the foils while the helmsmen on the other boats also juggled those responsibilities.

 Of the crew in Bermuda only Ashby returned from the previous campaign. At the other end of the scale Olympic track cycling medallist Simon Van Velthooven had never been in a yacht race before the first day of the Louis Vuitton Qualifiers.

Joe Sullivan had at least been on the water before though was in a similar position. Andy Maloney joined the team late last year, as did Josh Junior after an Olympic campaign in the Finn class. Burling and Tuke were also in Rio, completing the most dominant win seen on the Olympic stage in more than 50 years.

Burling emerged as the star of New Zealand's triumph in Bermuda, unexpectedly finding himself centre stage. What were traditionally skipper's press conferences became helmsman's press conferences, keeping the cheeky Ashby (who once referred to the Australian heavy defenders as Oracle Team AUS) away from any verbal duels with Spithill and exposing Burling.

But the youngest helmsman in the regatta - and now the youngest helmsman to win the Cup - more than held his own. The 26 year old rattled the brash Aussie nicknamed "The Pitbull" in front of the world's media and did the same on the water, showing why he's rated one of the best sailors in the world.

 Despite all that was against them, Team NZ still prevailed. The boat with the cyclists stood out from the crowd before the racing began, and still does after the regatta reached its climax for all the right reasons. The Cup is back in New Zealand's hands and the nation can breathe again.

You can forget about snapped masts and the boat that needed bailing out on the Hauraki Gulf. Forget about blown gennakers and a one second loss in Valencia.

Forget about the improbable comeback and the tears of San Francisco. Celebrate what we've just witnessed in Bermuda in the same way we did the groundbreaking victory in San Diego 22 years ago.

 But for all Team NZ has been through since then, this one might be just a little sweeter.

Greg Pearson is a sports producer and reporter for Newshub.