The equation for supporting sports teams is loaded to the downside. And it’s the hope that kills more often than not. Your soul is tortured but you hold an unshakeable belief of better days. Perhaps an Oligarch will buy your team and propel it to unimaginable heights? Maybe the draft pick will, for once, go in your favour and your team will be built around a global superstar. For most it’s the hard grind of years of supporting second rate players and suffering unbelievable loss and shattered dreams. Perhaps the odd tournament success may come your way, a cup run, occasional brilliance but in reality an upgraded stadium, with slightly fancier meat pies if you’re lucky, is the best you can expect.
For British fans of the America’s Cup it’s been an endless saga of ‘plucky challenges’ – too worthy by far and way behind the eight ball on design, crew, money and ambition. Just being there on the start line, a victory of sorts as that is, was about the best we could hope for and probably the closest we got was White Crusader with Chris Law and Harold Cudmore in 1987. Some would argue that Peter de Savary’s Victory ’83 challenge had a shot or that Ian Howlett’s radical design for the Lionheart Challenge in 1980 was near the mark. But since then it’s been a tough watch. The less said about the GBR Challenge and the BAR efforts, the better.
This time it feels different. Viewing through the lens of December it was the same old story but the turnaround for Ben Ainslie’s Ineos Team UK has been nothing short of a miracle. It’s beyond all expectations – even for the team. A 6-0 record and a golden pass to the Prada Cup Final was a drunken gambler’s bet at midnight on a roulette wheel. It’s stunning but whilst momentum builds, caution must be the watchword. Over-confidence now is fatal. Spray the champagne, lift the Christmas Cup and then straight back at it. And that’s exactly what this team is doing. Dark clouds are on the horizon. In near view is the winner of the Magic/Prada contest and they will bring thunder. Lightning will strike in the form of the Kiwis, if Ineos progress to the final. The route to glory is laid with landmines.
The latest of which is a CNC – a Claim of Non Compliance – which was lodged by Prada against Ineos – you can view it here – for an outhaul infringement. It’s a cheap shot that has just become more expensive. The CNC is effectively the equivalent of a yellow card in soccer. Infringe again and it’s a straight red and a race win is deducted. At this level and with wins so hard to come by as evidenced in the Prada/Ineos race yesterday, it could be costly and Ben was quite right to criticise the format at the press conference.
On one level it is utterly ridiculous that something that has zero bearing on the speed of the boat should decide an outcome – especially after the measurers have validated a certificate. But on another, Ben has been around one-design racing long enough to know that the rules are the rules. Ineos sit on a warning having paid their $5000 to the Sir Peter Blake Trust but all the eyes and spies of the other teams are on them to try and rattle their cage.
But one thing that really gives me hope and shows the bite in the Ineos Lions is their incredibly polite pass on racing on Sunday. It was delivered so gentlemanly and with such class by Ben, one of the most esteemed members of the Royal Yacht Squadron in Cowes, that the iron fist was heavily disguised. No way were the Brits going to give even a glimmer of hope to their Italian rivals and allow them the oxygen of competition to put their woes right. Frankly, stuff them. Not our problem. It was genius communications – blame the weather for the sake of keeping the boat intact. Masterful. No-one can complain at that. Nice one Ben. Top call from Simmer.
So, whilst Ineos, quite rightly, hogs all the racing limelight, American Magic have been quietly performing miracles to get Patriot back. The team issued a fascinating video (see below) of progress to date. Not only have the Kiwis so graciously rolled out the red carpet but Team New Zealand Boatbuilder, Geoff Senior, has rolled up his sleeves and corralled his troops in a no-holds barred effort to effect repairs.
Anyone watching just can’t fail to be impressed at what the Kiwis are doing here. It’s unbelievable sportsmanship of the highest order and says more about a nation’s attitude and soul than anything a politician or a tourist board publicity campaign can ever achieve.
Grant Dalton has thrown every available resource, even his own, at getting the American campaign back on track. It’s one of the most remarkable activations that will go down in the history of this storied event and you just can’t help but hold the Kiwis in the highest esteem for how they have reacted in a crisis. Grant Dalton is a living legend in the Hilary and Blake mould – mark my words.
And all the Team New Zealand shore crew performing such magic on Magic can hold their heads up high when this is all said and done. The event is richer for your efforts. The Americans are beyond grateful. The world is blown away. Thank you.
‘Kiwi Magic’ in action. Impressive.
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