If this were a soccer team in the UK, the manager would be fired in the tunnel. The board would have been summoned by the Chairman in the Director’s box for a quick meeting. The human capital team would be on standby with the paperwork, the lawyers would be nodding and rubbing their hands obsequiously in agreement with the boss. Chatter would most likely be in Russian and a swift round of vodka shots would be being poured by a flunky stage left. A vicious lacky would be sent down to give the news. The manager would feign shock but he knew the results just weren’t good enough, he wasn’t good enough and his back-room staff let him down. He looked like a duck, he walked like a duck but he wasn’t, when it came to it, a duck. He might be back, but at a club in a lower division or abroad and he’ll know that he blew the chance of a lifetime to be managing a money-no-object team with the world’s best at his beck and call.
That’s what happens in soccer. It’s unlikely to happen in the America’s Cup but on the face of the performance today from Ineos, it should. Heads should be rolling. Swords should be fallen upon. It was as bad as it could possibly get with technical breakdowns hogging the headlines but masking the far bigger issues – no boatspeed and a crew that look like they’ve never met before. I’ve said it before but this is the end of the cycle, not the beginning. Three years of blood, sweat and tears has been poured into this and to be honest it looks like a bunch of amateurs who have hired a boat out of Portsmouth for a weekend’s racing with the big boys in Cowes.
The grinders look isolated, inefficient and an aero drag with their outboard facing single units. The flight controller just behind Ben is hanging on for dear life (when he’s not in the way) trying to look upwards whilst wielding a control pad that he looks like dropping at any second. Giles Scott looks like a spare part at a funeral, aimlessly crossing the boat to take up a redundant leeward position to call tactics (“we’re 5 minutes behind” is the call) whilst Ben was swearing like a trooper as the boat pitched and yawled, desperately willing better from all around him and his charge. Horrible to watch.
And we learned from the get-go that all the whispers I’ve been hearing were true. The boat sticks on splashdown – even in a breeze. It can’t point and it’s dog slow. The full Mercedes F1 Team with every single designer from Brackley would have a hard time dragging this donkey to the top of the ranks now. Upgrades? Forget it. Money down the drain. Wishing for radical breakthroughs at this stage is like a drunk at the roulette wheel at the end of the night wanting one last spin. It is desperate. The ‘team’ have capitulated and the cracks have become chasms. Something is seriously wrong and I’m afraid there might have to be some big structural changes, starting at the top, to try and turn this around before they become the laughing stock of this cycle, if they aren’t already – social media feeds are being far more brutal than I. The echo chamber upstairs at Ineos Team UK, quite frankly, isn’t working.
Two ‘races’ that were the let down of an otherwise thrilling opening day of the Prada Christmas regatta are quite frankly not worth dwelling on from a British perspective. The stories were all elsewhere and in the fickle manner of sport, we move on.
What did we learn otherwise. Well, Team Magic had a very good day powering off the start line, higher and faster and extending into a five minutes win over the hapless Brits. They looked good all round but loads of room for improvement. Their big win came in the second race of the day against a wounded Team New Zealand who were fighting the boat from before the pre-start with what looked like main track problems. The Kiwis didn’t give up, managed the delta loss and then showed why they are still the favourites by a country mile as they ground down Magic on the second beat, lit the afterburners impressively, and had them like a turkey in the last throes of the final windward mark. Quite how Pete Burling threw it away from there will be one for the debrief tapes but Dean Barker came back and eked an unlikely victory after a poor Kiwi gybe at the top that they didn’t execute. Fascinating but the speed is all with the Kiwis if they can keep the boat together.
And the speed factor was exposed brutally earlier, in the first race of the day as they absolutely smoked away from Prada and issued a thumping of a beating that Pitbull was scratching his head over in the onboard interview, admitting that the Kiwis were faster all round – better in a straight line, better around the corners. Tough to beat.
So it’s the Americans at the top of the pile overnight and a hell of a day for the Brits tomorrow with two races against the Kiwis. Betting has been suspended other than the spread-betters offering total margin of victory spreads to Team New Zealand. Currently the smart money is long at 10 minutes. It’s honestly academic now. This is going to be a brutal day. I wish beyond all reason that I had something, anything, more positive to report. Dire.