“Winning is not enough. All others must lose.” That’s Larry Ellison for you and I have to say I definitely miss the Bee Gee in this cycle. Sure the Sail GP stuff is kind of amusing and provides much needed employment for a coterie of elite sailors but it’s not this. It’s not the Cup. It actually looks a bit old hat in comparison. We miss you Larry. End of story. So whilst I quietly pine for the ultimate swashbuckler, it’s that time of year to play schoolboy Nostradamus and i’ll make some predictions that will come back to haunt me forever more…
Easy one first – Team New Zealand will win the Cup by a record margin. It will be a blackwash and will be 7-0. Quite embarrassing ultimately for the Challenger who won’t come close in any race. Margins of victory will range from 1 minute 20 seconds to over 4 minutes. Slam dunk. Grant Dalton will announce his retirement after the last race saying, “I’ve achieved everything in this wonderful sport. I’ve climbed the mountain enough times now and it’s time for the next generation to have their moment.” In the Queen’s birthday honours 2021, Dalton will be elevated to ‘Sir’ Grant Dalton in recognition. Well deserved.
Ray Davies will take over the interim running of Team New Zealand and the nation will have a period of reflection over the future of the Cup. With Covid still present, and the costs coming under intense scrutiny in government, a decision will be made to put the next venue out to tender and will attract a big money bid from Abu Dhabi backed by Dubai. A very serious offer will be made from the Costa Smeralda Yacht Club backed by Patrizio Bertelli. The New York Yacht Club will make an impassioned bid for Newport and a new class of displacement boats. The Cup will go to the Middle East in 2025. Money doesn’t talk, it screams.
The Challenger series will be tighter than expected. Prada will make all the early running and Francesco Bruni will be the quiet superstar helm, eclipsing Jimmy Spithill – although Pitbull’s press conferences will be classics especially when the pressure comes on. Expect some wild allegations and an end to the niceties to date.
The story of the Challenger series will be the resurgence of Team Ineos, shorn of its issues in tacking and gybing, the Brits will take scalps and it will be a thrilling victory in big breeze over Prada that will begin the demise of the Italians. American Magic will just take the series having gone through to the final as round robin winner and will face a Prada team struggling for confidence after ‘that’ close shave with Ineos. Terry Hutchinson and Dean Barker will take the plaudits, but the Cup fraternity will all be talking about Paul Goodison. He will be the highest rank sailor, the MVP if you like, of the whole event and the only sailor that would make the Team New Zealand boat at a canter.
Good news will come at the press conference on the 31st January with the Brits eliminated on count back with Jim Ratcliffe publicly announcing an extension of the sponsorship of the British team. “We can’t stop now’ will be the message and the team will be hollowed out and then start hiring aggressively with Goodison and Iain Percy (where’s he for Christ’s sake?) brought in followed by big name signings from Team New Zealand. Think Alinghi. That’ll be Ineos. Kiwis beware.
Back on the water, the world will be amazed at something the Kiwis will do and it will be an innovation in sail design. Backstays will be gone. The jibs will be very different. But the big advance will be in the double-skinned mainsail. Unseen control systems will win this Cup. The Magic boys will equally have something up their sleeves, to be expected from having the world’s best sailmaker, Hutchinson, onboard but it won’t be enough to match the Kiwis. They are a generation at least ahead in this area.
Oh and finally there will be a protest. A big, ugly protest that lingers over the competition and it will most likely come from one of the European teams. Seeing as it can’t be an on-the-water protest, it’s likely to be around data and access to code and will be squarely angled at Team New Zealand to try and upset their momentum. Dalton is already armed and dangerous with the biggest fly swat known to humanity so expect this to be crushed on a wheel. But it will provide for a lot of entertainment and intrigue.
Whilst all that might be conjecture and totally wrong, there is something that I can say for sure. New Zealand will host this event magnificently. The sun will shine. The breeze will play ball and the images being beamed around the world will showcase this beautiful country with its beautiful people. New Zealand is extending its ‘Manaakitanga’ to the world – its hospitality and best wishes. We are profoundly grateful for the experience.
Happy New Year everyone. See you in 2021.
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