The fourth track on Bob Dylan’s masterpiece album ‘Bringing it all back home’ reveals a line that has been in my mind for well over three decades: “There’s no success like failure. And failure’s no success at all.” It’s a message that needs separating and decoding. Essentially from failure you are on the journey to success. But if failure stops the journey, then success is lost and it’s a full stop. As a lifelong fan of Minnesota’s finest lyricist, it seems apt in the context of the Cup.
If you’re part of the American Magic team waking up after the cacophony and chaos of the last two weeks, you are waking from a relentless vision and programme that has been your life for three long years. You could be forgiven for feeling empty, directionless, like a rolling stone wandering where the wind blows you next. In actual fact this could well be just a pitstop on the path to future glory. Sport at the highest level is brutal. Its inherent basis is that there are winners and losers.
The America’s Cup is about winning but getting there demands a commitment to the commitment as a baseline but then a whole number of factors need to come together in perfect symmetry all at once – when it matters. Luck, sadly, is one of the parts of the equation that nobody can factor into the overall outcome with any degree of confidence. Things need to go your way. Momentum, an unstoppable momentum, needs to build into your team. Self-belief in the vessel and those all around you needs to be nurtured. And supporting patrons with a certain belief need to be unshakeable in their desire for the ultimate prize in world sailing.
Corralling these forces requires leadership and there’s an often used line that ‘pessimists complain about the wind, optimists expect it to change, leaders adjust the sails’ and for Terry Hutchinson it’s a case of doing just that. The New York Yacht Club challenge was sailing in smooth waters right up until the tempest hit in that squally peel-off with the subsequent capsize that ultimately cost them the tournament. Ironically they were leading at the time. The world was watching a devastating boatspeed and match-race masterclass – to be honest I was 300 words into writing that the comeback was on and that Magic was about to regain its place at the top of the betting standings. In 20 seconds it all came crashing to a thunderous crescendo and in reality, hope faded and dreams were close to sunk.
The fact that the team moved heaven and earth to get back out racing is testament to just how strong the American Magic spirit is. Stopping now would see that spirit evaporate like the angel’s share on a whisky cask. Keeping it going would be the ultimate sporting statement of desire and I would urge Hap Fauth, Doug DeVos and Roger Penske to seriously consider a renewed commitment. Something so good is so hard to find and were it not for one catastrophic bear-away, the story of this Cup cycle would no doubt be very different today.
Terry Hutchinson is a magnificent leader. Wall Street CEO standard. He’s honest, true, loyal and respectful with a measured persona that sets a tone from the top that’s hard to better. Old father time may preclude him from racing these machines in the next cycle but as a figurehead you would be hard-pressed to find a better person to lead the NYYC Challenge for 2025. That may seem a while away – and a few hundred million dollars – but great teams take time to come together. This is already a great team that did very little wrong in this cycle. The performances when it mattered didn’t equal the promise and were poor reward for the effort implied. The Cup, as I say, is a brutal place.
So whilst the Americans pause to lick their wounds, the Italians advance with relief exuding from every pore. The celebrations were wild. A casual observer would have thought they had won the America’s Cup, not the first losers race. And the narrative from the crews was all about ‘payback’ and settling scores with the Poms. Let’s not forget that Prada lost three times against the Ainslie machine in the Round Robins and in the final race, Ineos had a cunningham rammed on at 75% in an upwind setting and still won. Prada are claiming a 10% improvement, they will need all of that and more, but against Magic those claims are hard to rubbish. The comms were crisp and clear. The boat looked good. Stable flight was established.
But let me say this. When I’m cruising around the Solent with my family onboard, the chances of me raising my voice in stress are next to zero. I may politely ask for a sausage roll or for a line to be gently eased but I certainly won’t be animated and my tone will be crisp, clear, soft, professional perhaps?
Put me on an 80-boat start line at an Etchells Worlds in one of those cheating Aussie boats with the long waterline that I, and everyone else knows, is faster than all the rest and it’s a study in stress. I have to win. I have no excuse to lose. And that’s where it all goes wrong.
My point here is that even in these monstrous yet magnificent AC75s there is a cruise mode and Prada was cruising all the way through that semi-final. Once they saw the VMG gain off that first start, it was a walk in the park. Stick Ainslie on their tails and it’s a whole other matter. Starts will be hotly contested. Moves will be called to cause splits. Every trick in the book will be thrown and if the boats are anywhere near close in speed and VMG, then it’s all on. They will be. And the Italians will be right back in the comms and co-ordination nightmare of before.
Just watch it. My money’s on Ineos. I simply don’t believe the Italians have it in them to face off and face up to the hottest sailors on the planet.
I know it’s only rock n roll but I like it.
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