Cup Stunner

I was supposed not to wake up at 3am today. Body clocks, however, are not as easy as iPhones to change. The dog was grateful but no doubt a bit bemused and life goes back to routine and normality. The Cup is done and dusted. The manic obsession can be parked for a while but what a fabulous time it was. This Cup served it all up on a platter richer than a Michelin starred chef’s banquet and confirmed its status at the very apex of not only sailing but of wider sport. The fact that the best team won, is how it should be. We can bore on about the rules being skewed but let’s not detract from the very best applying themselves 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and then coming out smoking. It was truly magnificent to watch.

©Sailing Energy / American Magic

The America’s Cup moves relentlessly forward but leaves historical images and impressions in its wake. This chapter was a spectacle. The boats were as awkward as a first date but so intriguing that you desperately want to pester for a second. Easy to knock, yes, but really there should be no turning back. The future is flying, displacement won’t cut it and now that we know the nuances – the lower wind limit didn’t work – a plan can be set accordingly in the future conditions from the outset. Careful analysis of what was good will ensure the 37th edition is even better – if that’s possible.

Holding the event in a pandemic in a venue that was almost globally unique, ensured something unrepeatable. The mood was right, something was in the air. Wind-up merchants of the media were excluded by situation rather than desire and that gave the sailors and the event organisers effectively a free run at presenting a compelling narrative. The local media did a great job of stone-turning augmented by organs from afar and as memorable Cups go, although it would have been so nice to be there, it was uniquely special and unforgettable to cover. In fact it was a huge privilege.

©ACE / Studio Borlenghi

The stand out take-aways are many. I felt the sailors were exceptional and when American Magic faltered, the teams stepped up magnificently. Right there and then, as the event feed cut and the Live, Sail, Die team carried on filming through personal devices, streaming to the world, was an electric moment of camaraderie personified. What happened in the coming days was brilliant and huge credit to those now forgotten for their efforts – the Geoff Seniors, the boatworkers, the builders. Heroes all. Magic was my tip for the Match but in 20 seconds and 25 knots it all ended. Cruel sport.

The re-emergence of Team Ineos in the Round Robins wasn’t inevitable but was thrilling to watch. A boat designed for the upper end with a very different crewing style and tactical input, it was enthralling to see potential being realised. That race against Luna Rossa stands out as the pinnacle of the Prada Cup and revved up the contest. That was the turning point of the regatta in a competitive sense. From there on, the game changed. Luna Rossa dispatched the Americans ruthlessly and clinically in the semis ahead of avenging their British nemeses in the Final.

©KOS Picture Source / www.kospictures.com

Meanwhile, stalking the Hauraki Gulf was a sensation. Te Rehutai buzzed and flicked all summer, circling like a Great White on a fleshy, bloated whale. Countless emails from well-connected sources suggested that physics was being defied. Newton, Einstein, Galileo, Rutherford and Faraday were nothing in the face of the English engineer with a Phd in mathematical modelling and aerodynamics, and a Cambridge Masters degree in his back-pocket. Dan Bernasconi was seemingly sculpting his own plinth in Trafalgar Square if the rumours were to be believed, such was the chatter and rumour around Te Rehutai. In the end, as is so often the case with the America’s Cup, it was half the truth. Yes the boat was fast but it was greased lightning with the best sailing unit onboard.

And after a testy end to the Prada Cup with what can only be described as an embarrassment of a press conference that should be quickly forgotten by all parties but lessons learned, the narrative of the Cup changed. Into the Match was an irascible Italian crew with fire in its belly and a nation’s support, led by competition personified of Antipodean descent. Such was the Spithill effect that it negated and focused the Italian passion into meaningful development and speed on the water. Truly amazing to watch. Jimmy set the tone from the top and we settled in for what promised not only to be an epic battled on the water but had the potential for fireworks off it.

©ACE / Studio Borlenghi

Roughly 50% of that didn’t happen and psychologist can analyse this long into the distance because New Zealand’s inherent team culture elicited no room for verbiage. They didn’t need the distraction of a loose-cannon on the podium, stuck to humility and killed with kindness. It was a genius play and that comes from the no-nonsense tone set by ‘Sir’ Grant, very much in the image of that other, much missed Kiwi Knight of the Realm, Peter Blake. I honestly thought the best ever was the Coutts/Butterworth masterclass of media manipulation. But in 2021 Burling, Tuke, Junior and Ashby took that blueprint, re-crafted it for the modern era and owned it. Nothing succeeds like success and they just trusted in the overall process, kept to the narrative and devastating success followed.

The Match was everything and more. With vortices coming into the sailing lexicon more than ever before, and even the helicopter circling the course feeling the effects, it was a joy to watch. Did Team New Zealand make a meal of it in the early part of the regatta? Yes. But some honesty from Dalton mid-way through behind closed doors, shook the Kiwis into action and four brilliant wins followed. The Cup was put to bed in light airs on a victory lap in front of a Kiwi public that embraced the event and offered the world hope of a return to normality. The manner of victory was a credit to everything that New Zealand stands for. Rightfully, the team should be lauded. Books should be written, savoured and referred back to in future as this was a defence out of the top drawer of sport. It deserves the best crafted prose from the pens of the greatest authors to live long in the annals.

But as I say, the Cup now moves relentlessly forward. Such will now be the speed, that the 36th edition will fade quickly. More’s the pity. Savouring this is a memory of a happy time and relief from reality. The America’s Cup delivered. The world of sailing is immensely grateful. New fans have been won and foiling is a discipline that many will take the plunge towards, at whatever age, just to feel it for ourselves. Kids can look up, wide-eyed at the heroes of this generation and have a goal to aim at and a toolkit of how it’s done and how it’s won.

The America’s Cup. There’s nothing like it in sport.

10 thoughts on “Cup Stunner

  1. Magnus, that was the last over, winning by 3 days. Luna Rossa played well but the Kiwis are masters once again. Thanks for the coverage from afar. Make a move to Aotearoa, bring your whanau with you. Waiheke Island is not far away from civilisation, you’ll love it, 10 minutes to Queen Street via ferry or 2 minutes on Te Rehutai. Kia haha, Kia Ora.

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  2. You nailed it, Magnus!
    Thanks for your coverage. What a great add-on, on a meal well served already through the fantastic coverage. It couldn’t be any better in my eyes. Keep up the good work and a great AC 36 booklet would already be a collection of your blog entries. My two hero journos, Jack and Bob, up there in the sky, would be proud about you.

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  3. Great blog Magnus. Like you will miss the AC for now. Hopefully all the rumours are true and will see these amazing boats in the UK.
    No question in my mind this is the way forward

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  4. Winners:

    Team NZ – they held the cup. Given Te Rehutai’s speed advantage, Dan Bernasconi needs special mention, the man from McLaren has delivered an incredible technical package for the sailors. And, it’s a silly little thing for me to say, but I loved the paint job. Finally they had some sail decals and design worthy of the aggressive Alinghi logo (it pains me to say it, but that jagged @ is the best I’ve seen yet).

    Jimmy Spithill – dare I say, now loved by NZers as he balanced the clinical professionalism, the pitbull persona and the gracious and charming post race personality with aplomb. The NZers “in the know” that I see around the traps are all saying “he’s actually a great guy, really likeable”. In fact, Luna Rossa do deserve credit for a very strong challenge. As for the Pitbull side, his move in pushing Te Rehutai away at the end of leg 2 in race 9 was great racing.

    Grant Dalton – the Honours Unit of the DPMC should be receiving several nominations for GD to be awarded his KNZM.

    Luna Rossa – the boat itself was fast to accelerate and was the most easy to control (maybe that’s credit to the sailors). And she looked good too.

    Losers:

    Missing visitors – Such a shame that the world sailing community couldn’t visit easily in this pandemic. Auckland put on a great show

    Auckland Council – why the hell couldn’t they time their major construction projects on Auckland’s Quay St to finish BEFORE the America’s Cup started? A disgrace that the city has amazing natural harbours and marine villages wrecked by thoughtless construction timing leading towards it

    Ineos – They designed a boat to win the round robins, not the finals. Top class sailors were deprived of the multiplier effect of a fast accelerating boat in lighter winds across February. I wanted to see Ineos triumph in the Prada Cup but like the problems with the Ferraris of the 1990s in F1, top end speed is not as important as cornering and accelerating.

    American Magic – so promising, but so cruelly deprived of giving their best. I know I harp on about the F1 comparisons, but Niki Lauda’s saying needs to be reminded of – “The secret to winning is winning as slowly as possible”. That bear away, conflated with a gust of wind and sailors controlling a twitchy beast will be a scar on the memory of those in that team.

    Wannabe syndicates – how do we get more than 3 teams entered into the next America’s Cup challenger series? a few more desired to make it, but couldn’t raise the funds. So how can we further refine the process to encourage technical excellence but also allow enough of a platform for teams to cheaply enter and be more than just a moving buoy?

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  5. Another great article with lots of lovely comments. Thanks for sharing everything with heart and eloquence.
    Kia tu kaha, ki te korero. (Stand strong and speak)

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Thank you Magnus. I’ve looked forward to every new morning’s post and never been disappointed. This last effort may have left me a little dewey eyed. Or maybe I just got some chili near my eyes cooking dinner.

    I second Aaron re Bernasconi. What a genius. I can’t believe the same person with the vision and imagination to dream up that design rule also had the technical mastery to follow through and not just make it happen, but do it the best of all. He is perhaps the only irreplaceable member of the team?

    I hope they can keep the class going with some regattas in the intervening years to the next cup. As Dr Bernasconi said, there’s a little unfinished business in seeing these weapons racing at the top end of the wind range.

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  7. The boats grew on me as the event progressed
    To fix:
    Longer pre starts
    Wider course limits
    Shorter start line
    Higher lower end wind limit
    More teams
    Longer series in Prada Cup
    Allow measurement changes doing the series
    Then we will have real excitement

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