The New Zealand Herald is my kind of paper. Despite living 11,659 miles away, I subscribe to it and read it daily. It’s a mirror into a country that I adore and people who are no-nonsense, incredibly generous, cultured and sports-mad. They love the All Blacks. They love the Black Caps (cricket) and I would think it safe to assume that they love Team New Zealand. If I was a Kiwi, I would love Team New Zealand. I would definitely buy the team gear and wave a flag proudly at dock-out. But reading the lead article this weekend by distinguished columnist John Roughan, it would seem that love for the America’s Cup is waning. You can read it here.
Roughan’s argument is that the ‘soul’ of the Cup has been usurped by the current breed of AC75s and the lack of a decent number of Challengers. He’s perfectly entitled to that view but saying in print, whether he meant it or not, “I wouldn’t mind if American Magic won'” is a dagger into the heart of the AC event organisers, Grant Dalton, the volunteers giving up their summer and every single team member, let alone 5 million Kiwis who are so graciously suffering the consequences of such significant taxpayer involvement. And publishing this on the weekend before the Prada Cup starts is poor editing in my opinion. If I was Grant Dalton, I would be hopping mad. Furious.
Roughan’s commentary winds through a couple of tales of viewing the AC racing from North Head and the next day out on the beach where he spied Prada and Magic tuning up. And I wonder whether he can hear himself? Whilst the rest of the world is terrified to go and get a pint of milk from a corner-shop, travel is banned, even going a few miles for a coastal walk can land you with a £200 fine, Roughan is moaning that the competition looks too easy for Team New Zealand and that he feels “manipulated” for being caught up in the excitement. I literally despair. Angry even.
And then comes the analysis on the foiling boats. “I’m not a sailor but I’d be surprised if its future is on foils. If you enjoy skidding over water, you’d be a windsurfer right?” Wrong pal. So wrong. This is like saying that we should go back to Formula 1 in 1957. I know, why don’t we ban running spikes from the 100m Olympic final and go barefoot. Or better still, let’s ditch the gloves and have bare-knuckle fighting from now on.
The misty-eyed view that by going backwards and ditching the foiling generation is wrong. These boats are utterly magnificent. They defy physics. They are beyond anything the world has ever seen and the speed, which is also a bit ‘meh’ to Roughan, is astonishing. I implore him to look up an AC race from the past on YouTube – anything with a monohull and it’s honestly akin to watching paint dry in comparison. And remember I’m saying this as the biggest AC lover on the planet. I’ve spent half my life watching this stuff. I would get goose bumps at Gary Jobson’s words. I literally couldn’t (and still can’t) contain myself over PJ Montgomery’s commentary. But it’s dull racing and would be a step so far backwards that it’s un-considerable now.
The AC75s are precisely what the America’s Cup needs and the event in Auckland is exactly what the world wants to see. The organisers have done a spectacular job in the hardest circumstances to get the show on and the vision of Grant Dalton and his team to get these boats into the competition is something that should be applauded, not knocked.
And as for the soul of the Cup – well that lies deep inside the Deed of Gift and the unintended consequences of the New York Yacht Club holding the trophy so magnificently for 132 years – the longest winning streak in sports history. As the Deed says: “This Cup is presented upon the conditions that it shall be preserved as a perpetual Challenge Cup for friendly competition between foreign countries.” That’s the soul. And the fact that the Americans hung on to it for so long so tenaciously and made the mountain so hard to climb for the challengers is where today’s legend arises. The fact that we ‘only’ have three challengers is irrelevant – quite frankly the Cup can be electric when there is just one challenger as we have seen throughout history. Three, in the current climate, is amazing.
As the current custodians, the RNZYS and ETNZ are perfectly in their right to load the dice in their favour. That’s the game. That’s why it is so hard to win. That, I’m afraid, is the legend. But one day they will lose. Someone will come along and perform 10% better all round, outsmart the Kiwis and rip the Auld Mug from their grasp. I don’t think it will be this time but someone will, mark my words. To the untrained eye this looks like a cakewalk for Team New Zealand. It is anything but and Dalton is on high alert as the Challengers get faster and faster. This ain’t over by a long chalk and I have a very good feeling that things are about to get very interesting, very quickly.
The world is watching New Zealand right now. The pictures coming back are off-the-scale. Sailors and non-sailors are all talking about this Cup. It has every chance of being the most successful ever, with the best boats ever created in mankind’s history and New Zealand is being the perfect host.
Don’t knock it. You won’t appreciate what you’ve got until it’s gone and I certainly wouldn’t be wishing the Cup goes away from the shores of Auckland if I was a true Kiwi.
It’s a truly remarkable spectacle. Roughan’s article is Fake News.
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