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.
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.
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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