Farewell Magic

Escapology is an illusion. Magic sadly, isn’t real. Miracles, some would argue, do happen but today they were all out for American Magic as they drew the curtain on a campaign that showed class, spirit and unbelievable character. It was a chastening experience where minor, incremental boatspeed made the difference before gear failure haunted Patriot as Luna Rossa hammered home its upwind VMG advantage in perfect conditions to majestically progress through to the Prada Cup Final. It was a masterful performance. Calm and controlled. Poetry in motion.

“Now Ineos boys” said Jimmy Spithill as he crossed the finish line in the second race with Magic put to the sword and it’s game on for a Final that even the most hardened, wizened fortune teller would find tough to call. The real Jimmy just stepped forward. It’s game on now.

Citius, Altius, Fortius – Faster. Higher. Stronger. That was the story. Prada were simply the faster boat, sailing higher upwind and looking stronger all round in the first race. Gear failure in the second amplified the Italian advantage as the Americans struggled and fought a deteriorating Patriot. Sport can be hard to watch sometimes.

Two wins akin to a stroll in the park sealed victory in perfect outright speed conditions where the course uncharacteristically yielded zero passing lanes. The Italians looked measured and relaxed, confident even and just kept the peddle to the metal and the “foot on the throat” as was the call from Spithill when ahead. It was a simple covering exercise all day for Luna Rossa, the type you can execute when a little bit of boatspeed makes you a tactical genius. They have taken another step up the performance ladder. On this performance, Ineos has it all on to get close.

© Sailing Energy / American Magic

Race one was a fabulous spectacle with small marginal gains being the tale of the tape. Race two brutally exposed American Magic’s time in the shed as debilitating foil cant issues appeared at the end of the first beat meaning Patriot struggled to drop their foils and it was game over. It was devastating to watch. The system wasn’t playing ball and it haunted them around the rest of the course as Luna Rossa powered off into the distance. This was not how the Americans wanted to lose. To their immense credit they stayed calm onboard. Class.

But it was heartbreaking. The Magic campaign promised so much. As a blueprint for how to conduct yourself in the America’s Cup, it was flawless but performing the ultimate Harry Houdini trick and coming back from the depths of despair after the capsize and near-sinking was simply a trick too far. The fairytale was on but crushed at the wheel by an Italian team with little charm but devastating boatspeed.

The soaring highs before Christmas where Magic were the only team to take a win over the mighty Team New Zealand, were replaced by the devastating lows and stark reality that they never won a race when it mattered most. The America’s Cup is a cruel, cruel game. American Magic played it with gentlemanly sportsmanship and go home with both respect and dignity.

© Sailing Energy / American Magic

To paraphrase “If” by Nobel laureate Rudyard Kipling: “If you can meet with triumph and disaster, and treat those two imposters just the same…yours is the earth and everything that’s in it.” Well for the American Magic team they can hold their heads up high. They performed miracles to even get back to racing. It was a gargantuan effort that tested characters and will to the limit. They won a legion of fans and provided the tournament and the fans with every story on the scale. The only narrative they couldn’t complete was a fairytale ending. The Cup will miss them. They have been terrific and there’s no doubt the New York Yacht Club will be back.

Prada were ruthless. Closing out the semi-finals 4-0 with the tantalising prospect awaiting them in the form of Ineos Team UK. They will need every ounce of this new boatspeed to take on the medal-heavy Lions, undoubtedly the best tactical sailors in this Cup. Whether they have cracked the code on these AC75s remains to be proven. American Magic provided little bite and offered few clues as to whether the Italian’s claim of a 10% improvement are true. Ineos, for sure, will be a very different prospect.

An emotional Terry Hutchinson paid tribute to his entire team and its legions of supporters – family members, patrons, sponsors. His voice was cracking as the brutal reality of the America’s Cup hit home. He has been a sportsman and a true gentleman. Rare in this game.

Farewell American Magic. Thank you. You have represented the New York Yacht Club with dignity and class. Every single team member can hold their head high.

The Cup is a poorer place with your exit. Come back soon.

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4 thoughts on “Farewell Magic

  1. Dean Barker will be wounded about his losing so many starts. While Terry H was both diplomatic and right in saying “we win and lose as a team”, it does very much look that Barker was bested in too many starts over the RR and semis. He seemed to have as good a read during the match race as the other side though.

    But it’s clear that Patriot was a wounded beast that wasn’t 100% trusted by her sailors. The AM team sailed Patriot in a way that suggested they were worried about breakdowns and fragility. And when it no longer mattered and they had to sail her as hard as they could for that last race and ‘damn the torpedos’, the boat was fragile and suffered gear failure, proving the sailors right.

    The Americans should be incredibly proud of how they managed to get back out on the water after their catastrophe, but they still needed at least a week more to solve the gremlins, fine tune their boat, and build confidence in how to attack with her.

    Niki Lauda, the Formula One legend once said that his secret to success was “to win going as slowly as possible”. This is in the context of F1 cars that were super fragile, prone to liftoff as they contended with ground effects, had turbos that induced pants-wetting, and where big accidents meant death. That is something to consider in the context of American Magic’s lead and their accident in that last round robin race of theirs.

    And now, this Kiwi cheers for Ineos. The America’s Cup tale again needs to see a strong British challenge to make the story richer.

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    1. Thanks Aaron – really great commentary. And thank you for cheering on Team Ineos in the Final of The Prada Cup. Great to have your support and please do feel free to comment on here anytime. Superb analysis. Cheers.

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  2. Well said Magnus, at the end it was just too great a mountain to climb.

    And although we know its a team game with a million moving parts that the public never see, as a kiwi I have to make the comment; Dean Barker always comes down on the wrong side of big moments, and that is why the NZ public lost faith with him. Hes probably an incredibly nice guy that I’d love to have a beer with, but it seems that when the fight goes to the next level either luck or psyche gets in the way and it never works.

    As for the final, like Aaron I’m backing Ineos. I think if the boats are close to even then Giles and Ben seem to have a better knack of positioning Rita on the course.

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  3. I’d like ask a question about American Magic. When the dust clears, the knives will be out. Post mortem, call it what you will. Brave attempt. Bad luck etc. Nevertheless the NYYC and their billionaire backers will be bitter after seeing such an impressive challenge fail. Who will be in the firing line (to mix metaphors) and why?

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