Kiwis seem to have a habit of building either truly great teams or ones, that for dynastic reasons, don’t quite hit the mark. At every Rugby World Cup they are ‘the’ story. How good is this team? Will they win? And invariably the answer hinges around whether the team is newly formed with a smattering of rookies or an absolute unit with players approaching their peak. If the latter, you may as well etch their name on the William Webb Ellis Trophy. If the former it’s a struggle.
And it’s no different in the America’s Cup. Sir Peter Blake put the Black Magic team together with a generation of sailors approaching their peak fused with unbelievable talent and experience from the bow to the stern. Ernesto Bertarelli plundered Blakey’s best right at their peak with vast, ugly euro riches and aced a Kiwi ‘B’ Team at the start of their personal Cup careers. Since Grant Dalton took over, very much in the style of Blake who was as competitive and no-nonsense as hell, it has been a rollercoaster ride to perfection. Getting over the Coutts/Butterworth era was hard but pivoting to the utter brilliance of the Burling/Tuke/Ashby axis has been a masterstroke. Today they enter the Cup with the full package. Sailors at the top of their game. Designers going beyond the limit on detail. A shore team that is honoured to work for the flag. And a leader that takes no prisoners.
They are at the top of the game. Team New Zealand is looking unbeatable. The Magic losses in recent days are like training ground run-outs. Everyone knows they mean next to zero other than a byline in a paper, a footnote when the history of this Cup cycle is written. This is the Kiwi dynasty fully imagined. This America’s Cup team is akin to the ‘Untouchables’ All Blacks Team of 2013 and is close to the ‘Incomparables’ of 1996. It’s the Black Magic of ’95, the Alinghi of ’03, the Stars & Stripes of ’87, the Australia II of ’83. They are writing history and it’s bloody impressive to watch.
Controlled aggression masked as competition was much in evidence yesterday. Off the back of an embarrassing Press Conference performance from Ben Ainslie, the team came out slugging. Ben took them on. The Kiwis are up for the fight. Boys v Men. On the rostrum Pete Burling was concessionary and sympathetic to his mate Ben’s plight but by the time he got back to the base, the mood had changed, the message was very different. An official press release was issued by the team regarding the foil cant system and if you translate it from Kiwi to English it basically says: “Take a hike, you aren’t ruining our parade.” Classic Dalton. Get on the front foot. Get ahead of the story. Squash it. Don’t allow the bloggers or the media the oxygen to blow up the balloon. Brilliant. Masterful.
And then came the racing. Two races against Ineos Team UK. Sir Edmund Hilary climbed Everest, Ben Ainslie is facing Everest with K2 on top. The Kiwis smoked them and exposed Ratty’s Rita as a different generation boat. Giving Ben a 400 metre lead in the second race after a splashdown pre-start would, in usual circumstances, be game over. I’ve seen Ben win Olympic races by over a leg in the Finn. But in this game, the Kiwis just kept calm, fired up the afterburners and ground Ineos into a pulp. Sure, they are not the finished article just yet but they are building an impossible momentum that is just so impressive to watch.
The talk in the air is about their mainsail camber control systems. I would suggest that’s a red herring, it’s the whole package that’s doing this from the lowliest team member doing work experience to the chef at the base through to the sailing team and upwards to Darth Dalton.
Impressive. Mighty impressive. Black Magic.
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