This week we will finally see lumps of pretty ugly carbon racing semi-seriously in Auckland. The weather looks great. The Met Office is calling a South Westerly on Wednesday of 11 knots gusting 23 at 1pm under sunny skies and 21 degrees celsius. Nice. And it looks pretty much the same for the entirety of the pre-Xmas regatta which has the absolutely huge title, that could only be dreamt up and insisted on by Italians of: “Prada America’s Cup World Series Auckland and Prada Christmas Race.” Jeez. To translate, basically it’s a knock out followed by a match race but who are we to argue with Patrizio when he’s writing the cheques?
So how does this all work? We have the God-like presence of Iain Murray as the race director – and quite seriously there is no-one better, more qualified or respected than Murray to keep order and ensure a decent regatta. He’s been round the block, up the road and back round the block again. His Cup experience goes back to 1983 and Syd Fischer’s ‘Advance’ before moving on to the Kookaburra syndicate for the failed defence in 1987 – I still think that Kookaburra was the best looking 12 metre of all time and used to cycle over to the Berthon boatyard in Lymington when I was a kid to drool over it when it was stored there for a summer. Stunner. Murray has also won two Etchells world championships and even represented Australia in the Star at the 2008 Beijing Games. He’s no mug and bloody quick on the water. That’s the kind of CV you need to bag the Race Director title but just like in sailing where you are no-one without a good crew, Murray’s job is impossible without a great team around him.
And it’s the army of volunteers who are out on the water every day that are the real stars of this America’s Cup. Not only do us sailing enthusiasts owe a huge debt of gratitude to the New Zealand people and government for getting this event going in this horrendous Covid era but on the water, the 124 volunteers who will be marshalling the spectator fleet, laying and hauling up 800kg marks perfectly and keeping the Birmingham Navy from straying onto the racecourse that should be applauded.
Volunteers who give up their time selflessly are the lifeblood of participation sports and in the whirlwind of the America’s Cup hoopla they are are so often forgotten but are the critical doers that allow the spectacle to happen. Thank you for volunteering. Thank you for making this event happen. Make sure you get a Steinlager out of Murray and let’s hope the teams get together and throw a fitting party in your honour with all the team members there on a three-line-whip to recognise your efforts.
Chapeau to each and every one of the volunteers. Chapeau!