Crisis

I feel for Ben. On Wednesday he has to attend the Press Conference ahead of the racing starting on Thursday, most probably shattered from another hard week of head-banging and face a pretty clueless audience of hacks desperate to catch up with a story that’s already been and gone.

Emirates Team New Zealand launch their second AC75 ‘ Te Rehutai” 36th America’s Cup presented by PRADA. Copyright ETNZ

There’s not a great deal he can say and if the assembled rank and file think there are going to be any exclusives or insights, forget it, he’s a genius at stonewalling and a master of playing a straight bat. Expect ‘Serious Ben’ mode – which is a frightening thing for Olympic competitors but a pitiful sight in this game. Confidence is what you want to see. Arrogance in the Russell Coutts manner is what you aspire to. I doubt we’ll see much of that. Also expect support from the other skippers on the podium. Everyone likes Ben and he’s revered, rightly, by the top echelons of the sport. He’s on the back foot. The team’s on the back foot. They all know it and there’s not much time to pull it all together and get going. Momentum is with Team NZ and Prada. Their tails are up and it’s no shock they’re at the top of the betting odds.

But sport is fickle. Pendulums swing and magicians pull rabbits out of hats. After a weekend resolutely in the shed, I personally expected fireworks today. Team Ineos v Team NZ in perfect conditions – the stage was set. The Kiwis have been laying down the challenge, the perfect marine Haka, in recent days, and today was the day to burst that bubble and let a little air out of the tyres on the Dalton juggernaut. It was a day to sow just a little bit of doubt in the Cup holders. Show a flash of brilliance. Give the pundits something to coo over. Show us what you’ve got.

What happened? One gybe pre-start and game over. Towed back to the base. The Kiwis left to sail a leg solo. As a watcher, an enthusiast, a supporter, a fanboy, I could cry. I know these boats are technical monsters but come on. Team Ineos have problems. Big problems. And after a weekend of coming out against my first blog post, rubbishing it as is their absolute right and I commend them for doing so, today was the day to prove it. I fear I’m bang on the money. I don’t want to be so. But on the evidence presented m’lud, this is looking like a crisis. In Cowes this weekend I was stopped by people I highly respect who are all hearing the same thing. The sailing community there is more tuned in to the Cup than you realise. They have sons and daughters, grandchildren, nephews, nieces and uncles connected to the team and the messages coming back aren’t positive. The jungle drums are beating.

Can they pull it round? Yes they can. But with three race days missed and a weekend in the shed, the signs are ominous. What we still don’t know is whether they have any speed or can turn corners fast. Is the boat the absolute dog that it’s rumoured to be? I’ve been told that it can’t point, sticks to the water and struggles to get airborne. But what do any of us know if we can’t see it racing? Today was supposed to give us an insight. It raised yet more questions than answers and I repeat my opening sentence: I feel for Ben.

Meanwhile out on the racecourse, Prada looked pretty slick against American Magic in the light winds. Jimmy was again in full ass- hauling mode around the racecourse and eked out into the lead – to be honest it looked like quite a grind. Patriot looked quite good. Dean Barker was on the money today – all credit to him – and I think in 10 knots more wind, they could be a tasty little outfit. The racing between these two is going to be fascinating to watch. How I would love to see Team Ineos in the mix. I fear it won’t be happening.

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One thought on “Crisis

  1. Watching the video from today’s “racing”, INEOS seem to be consistently falling off the port foil, and once in displacement mode, seems to take forever to get back up foiling. Must be a real concern for the team and would suspect much midnight oil is being burned to find a solution.

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