As a central tenet, public health is the absolute priority in Auckland right now and locking down the city for a 72 hour period is, as Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern so poignantly and correctly stated “the right thing to do.” The Prada Cup Final can be put on ice for a while. It is of secondary concern. This is serious.
A mother, father and daughter from South Auckland’s Papatoetoe district have been confirmed as “new and active” cases but the worrying thing is that the source of the infection is believed to come from the mother’s workplace – LSG Sky Chefs in Mangere where she was a handler of laundry.
Now the Auckland health authorities are moving heaven and earth to implement mass testing in the hope of containment. The America’s Cup community wishes them every success and it’s breathtaking how fast New Zealand have moved on this. Sport can sit on the sidelines for a while. Public health is all that matters.
For the rest of the world utterly familiar with repeated lockdowns and oppressive restrictions, Auckland has offered us all hope of a brighter future. Of a future post-pandemic where once again we can shake hands, remove face masks and not live in fear of close contact with friends, neighbours or strangers.
We have been watching this America’s Cup in awe and disbelief. Sailors sharing microphones on the podium, crowds gathered in the Event Village and bars, retail, hairdressers (!), businesses all open and thriving. In Britain we are getting close to the end of a vicious lockdown after a horrific spike in daily deaths a couple of weeks ago. The end feels in sight but we know restrictions are inevitable for probably the rest of 2021. We are counting the cost of lost friends and family. It has been era defining and we won’t know the true costs for generations to come.
My hope is that Auckland, its fabulous people and everyone in the Cup community are safe and this is all contained and dealt with quickly. I have every confidence that the rapid reaction gives every chance of a successful outcome.
Whilst us sailing fanatics would love to get on with the conclusion of this riveting Prada Cup final with the Italians absolutely on fire and enjoying a thumping 4-0 lead, we will have to be patient. The teams will hibernate away in their sheds and it’s unclear whether they will be allowed to physically work on the boats in a team enforced bio-secure bubble. What is Covid-agnostic however is the data crunching that both teams will be able to perform from whirring laptops interpreting billions of points of valuable numbers garnered from the racing.
I was actually impressed with how close Team Ineos managed to get to Prada with significant overnight gains that almost matched the Italians. That was less than 12 hours of number crunching. The fact that four uncharacteristic poor starts have dictated the outcome to date gives me hope. That is correctable with the talent and the gold medals onboard Ineos. And these boats are so tweaky that giving the data scientists four, five or six days of number crunching and performance analysis could well be just the reset that Ineos needs.
I would say that the momentum was all with Prada and it was building to an unstoppable crescendo but sport has a funny way of throwing curve-balls and this extended delay – however long that may be – could be the twist in the tale that I alluded to in my early morning race report. Ineos has some mighty support in Mercedes and its own engineers, technicians and computer scientists and they all know that they have a problem.
Give smart people time and tools and miraculous outcomes can become inevitabilities. This is the window of hope that Ineos needed and although they would rather have done their talking on the water, if they come out with a reset, rebooted platform that has taken a step forward then the sailors have a moment of destiny to convert the opportunity.
In short, they have to have a winning day the next time these two come together. A 6-0 lead would be devastating and bear in mind, this isn’t San Francisco where a new way of sailing can be found. The performance gains are right on the margins now and to be honest, it’s so close that just a fraction here or there could dramatically change the outcome of this Covid affected series.
As twists go, this is a moment. Be of no doubt about that. The legendary college football coach Lou Holtz had a great saying: “Ability is what you are capable of doing. Motivation determines what you do. Attitude determines how well you do it.”
At 4-0 down and staring into oblivion my guess is that Ben Ainslie and the Ineos team have the ability, motivation and attitude to take this all the way. But of far more immediate importance is Auckland getting this virus outbreak under control.
Stay safe Auckland. Stay safe.
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