“The greater the difficulty, the more glory in surmounting it” – sage words from Epicurus, the philosopher that literally bored me to tears in school. So dull was epicurean philosophy imparted by an even duller classics teacher that somehow it stuck. It was so bad to be memorable. The notion of deriving the maximum amount of pleasure in a lifetime was certainly of interest but to do so in moderation didn’t really resonate. And when it came to politics, the epicurean philosophy of avoiding all politics for fear of muddying the mind and disturbing your virtue seemed like utter nonsense. There was dinghy sailing to be done…
Thirty five years later, Epicurus makes a bit more sense. To a degree. Why they teach this stuff to distracted teenagers who just want to be out on the water is anyone’s guess but it’s in the memory banks and useful at moments like this. Call it writer’s block or just a lack of decent stories – this Cup has been light on the scandal front – but I reckon the teachings of Epicurus (or were they diktats?) could be something for the Team Ineos boys to consider as they enter an absolute political minefield as the pressure comes on ahead of the Prada Cup final. Ben’s been remarkably good under pressure so far in this tournament. He fronted up when all was hopeless before Christmas – and my Greek-God-in-a-handcart it was a dire situation. Desperate.
Quite how they turned around that mess was remarkable. Credit to them. They stood at the abyss and there really wasn’t much staring back and they found their character. That’s gutsy. And then the sailors, with a half decent platform beneath them, sailed the wheels off Rita, thrashing that donkey like it was a stubborn mule on a narrow mountain pass half way to base camp and the results flowed. Their talent shined. The boat still has big question marks – even Grant Dalton said it.
And now, the temperature is rising. It feels like a simmering tension is building nicely into this final. Containing it before it erupts into all-out podium handbags is going to take stoic British charm and reserve – Ben has that by that bucketload. Walk in the park. Water off a duck’s back. He’s been down and he knows how to get up again. The Tyson Fury of yachting.
But on the other side of this equation is a different fury – an Aussie who makes no secret of his desire to settle the score and revels in his nickname of Pitbull. A more political beast you could not hope to meet. Epicurus would be turning in his mausoleum. Statues can be heard shaking in dusty museums. Pitbull will be playing the politics and the mind games to the nth degree and it will be brash and obvious. You won’t need to be a super sleuth or investigative journalist to see it – or see straight through it.
Largely it’s unnecessary one-upmanship. A side-show that amuses and entertains and keeps the media more than happy. The Cup loves its swashbucklers. It’s the purest example of competitive nature and instinct in sport and it instils a will to win in the team. It’s a tactic that is admirable and inspiring and great fun to watch. And leaves the rest of us wondering: just how do you get to be that brash?
Meanwhile on the water, Prada is definitely ramping up its development. The engine room has had a makeover and crikey it looks good. Have a look at the video below from the excellent Justin Mitchell YouTube channel. The vertical stranded light airs jib is surely a thing of beauty and, alongside Team New Zealand, the Italians have invested heavily in their mainsail development. I’m watching the videos and looking at the spy-shots coming back of Te Rehutai and they are in full test mode with a radical new clew arrangement and are achieving incredible inversion of the main up top when desired. The power source is being tweaked and refined to quite astonishing levels beneath these double-skinned mainsails and it’s exciting to see what another month of development in this area will produce.
Team Ineos spy-shots in this area are thin on the ground as, so far, there’s been little to see but just what they come out of the shed with on February 13th will be fascinating. Everyone is on to main control and sail design, married with enhanced foil designs. It’s all in the detail. If it’s light, we will see some super-cool sails at the outer-edge of development. Look even closer at the Prada detailing of the rig and you can see new routing arrangements for the backstays running off the communications gantry in an attempt to minimise windage. It’s all going on – they are all pushing like crazy and all the signs of an arms race are there. The latest Mercedes inspired thinking on the British boat will, we hope, be the deciding factor. What have they got up their sleeves?
But whilst we wait like Russians in a bread queue for more racing, I’ll leave you as I started, with the words of Epicurus: “Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not.” Wise words but that’s not the America’s Cup. Rampant desire has ridden into town and they can all smell victory.
It’s going to be game on…when we eventually get there.
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