If you’re a Kiwi reading this, hello, and congratulations. Your outstanding team just won the most thrilling of matches to win the AC World Series regatta and set the benchmark that everyone else has to aspire to. But wow it was close. Your heart was in your mouth, admit it. And Pete Burling didn’t make it an easy watch right from the get-go after another uncharacteristically poor start that is becoming a habit. But when Te Rehutai splashed down just after the top mark on the second downwind leg, it looked like the champagne was going to Prada. Then they splashed down and oh how these boats are horrible, ugly lumps in displacement, and collective breaths were held as we sought the answer to who could get up and foiling again.
Agony, wrapped in anticipation. I could feel five million Kiwis on the edge of their seats and could hear Italian nails been bitten. It was desperate. And then like the second coming, Team New Zealand rose and roared. The delta tumbled. It was game on again and Dalton’s Army powered through to take the lead. Eventually, agonisingly, Jimmy & Ceco got their donkey airborne and I’m amazed at how calm and professional they were. I would have lost it right there. Sailing in my world is a frustrating experience, especially in light airs. I just can’t hack the injustice of it all. I don’t have the patience. I respect the collective professionalism on Team Prada.
Now it was a tense, tactical battle race to the finish, two legs later, but the Kiwis were doing a horizon job. Right up until they weren’t. Splashdown again. Pitbull right back in the game. I just couldn’t take it. What must it have been like onboard Team New Zealand, especially in the afterguard, but they showed the mark of champions, got foiling and then kept it close. Their manoeuvres were super slick – they will get even better – and they kept that hull flying to the windward mark and then smoked away on the final run. The final gybe was as close to perfection as is possible and they crossed the line to claim the regatta win and all the plaudits they so richly deserve.
It is frightening to think that Team New Zealand will get better. I am so curious as to what innovations they have up their sleeves and it’s such a shame we won’t be seeing them after this weekend until March but that’s the Cup and those, as they say, is the rules. They are on the finish leg now. It’s all about the final tweaks. Pete Burling needs to brush up in a lot of areas of his racecraft but he’s got honesty all around him that will address that. The simulator will be red hot on pre-starts for the next few months.
The planned modifications and upgrades will ensure they stay a generation ahead but there’s no way Dalton will be solely relying on fool’s gold here. Burling will be put on watch and left under no illusion that he has to up his game and perform. That’s good for him. But it’s the team that will now really come together and rally to the cause. No big egos will be tolerated. Feet on the ground. Heads down. Work, work, work. Christmas is cancelled.
Team New Zealand, like all great sportsmen/women/teams at the top of their game, are thrilling to watch. They are the Michael Jordan of basketball, the Leo Messi of soccer, the Usain Bolt of sprinting, the Jonah Lomu of rugby, the Lewis Hamilton of F1.
You watch to be entertained and today they were worth much more than the price of admission. New Zealand should be very very proud of what’s happening out on the Hauraki Gulf. Very proud indeed. It must feel good to be a New Zealander right now.
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