Wheels Up

What’s the fastest car in the world? Maybe a Bugatti? Perhaps a Ferrari? A Lamborghini even? Nope, all wrong. It’s a hire car. Nothing accelerates quite as fast as when you’ve paid for the privilege and the deposit is chump change. And even better seems to be those Car Club cars that you can rent by the hour. Rocketships that corner on rails. Totally knackered beyond belief by the end of their useful life, the only place for them is the scrap yard. It was ever thus.

©Associated Press

Well, with Covid once again causing lockdown, this time on the beautiful Island of Bermuda, all the teams who are scrambling to get the Sail GP F50’s ready in time for next weekend have agreed to share boats. Four of these flying machines are effectively out for hire and it was the Aussie Tom Slingsby, former AC winner with Jimmy Spithill, who borrowed and stacked the American boat at 45 knots. Thankfully no-one was injured and it was as gentle a slap down as could be hoped for, but still there’ll have to be a thorough overhaul before it can race again. Spithill, who’s leading the US charge in the regatta, was pretty gracious and cool about the whole thing. It’s a hire car after all.

“Obviously it’s not ideal capsizing and damaging someone else’s boat but he understands how it is,” a rather sheepish Slingsby commented. “I think we owe him a few alcoholic presents and thank-yous.”

Ever the showman, Spithill retorted: “They better be cold. They better be high-end beers, too. No cheap light beers! Until our boat’s ready to go, we’ll obviously be borrowing the Australian boat and I’m looking forward to having a go on that.” Classic.

Meanwhile, down in Vilamoura, Zsombor ‘La Bomba’ Berecz held his nerve and secured the Finn Europeans ahead of the fast-charging Giles Scott and laid down a good marker for both the Finn Gold Cup next month up the coast in Porto and the Olympic Games in Tokyo which is now less than 100 days away.

Giles was shaking off some dinghy ring-rust from his time away away with the Team Ineos brigade and did a pretty stunning job in securing the silver medal. He’s under no illusion that in the hard-driving, kinetic absorbing Finn where ultimate fitness is required and where the downwind legs are actually more gruelling than the upwinds, that this is rapidly becoming a fleet where the youth are progressing rapidly. He’s got his work cut-out to win a second Gold in Tokyo.

“This week I have to settle and be content with second. It’s been good to be able to jump straight back into a major event after my six-month sabbatical. It’s highlighted where I’m at and ultimately the work that needs to be done for the Games in three months time. On to the next one and I’m looking forward to Porto. A change in location and a new event to work towards is great to have in prep for the Games.”

With the class pushing hard for the now seemingly vacant medal at Paris 2024 after the IOC put World Sailing on notice that it can’t square the broadcast issues and course variances with a mixed offshore double-handed event, the Finn has to be in pole position now for a last hurrah.

Paul Elvstrom – Legend

What’s interesting is that if you apply the Olympic mantra of ‘Citius, Altius, Fortius’ to the class then it pretty much ticks all the boxes. What’s been showcased down in Vilamoura and will be capitalised on in Porto and Enoshima is the sheer athleticism of the class and of course its history of producing medallists like Ainslie, Elvstrom, Coutts, Bertrand, Kusznierewicz, Percy, Doreste, Schumann and Mankin – all legends of the sport – can only aide the committee’s decision.

Will it happen? Well it will be a dereliction of duty if World Sailing fail to deliver either the keelboats or a dinghy format and allow kite surfing a free medal on a false assumption of participation. To most of us kite-surfing is a colourful distraction on a beach walk, a pastime enjoyed by sub middle-aged accountants of a weekend who first learned the technique sport on a summer holiday in Malta. Some get good. Most are absolutely terrible and are a danger not only to themselves but all around them. The numbers I’ve seen up the beach and in the bushes at Calshot are too many to recall. Olympic sport? Come off it. It’s about as Olympic as competition darts or championship snooker.

Kite surfing is the parlour version of watersports. Nabbing the sailing Olympic medals is a travesty and on a par with other equally daft events that the Games have tried such as: rope climbing (1896), Tandem Cycling (1920-1972), Men’s Motorboating – really? – (1908), Ski Ballet (1992) and Skijoring (1928)…and yes, you are all looking up ‘Skijoring’ – it’s riding a horse around a frozen lake whilst skiing behind and they did it at the St Moritz Winter Games. I kid you not. The Olympic organisers are absolutely world class at promoting nonsense events. Paris 2024 will see surfing, sport climbing, skateboarding and breaking (breakdancing) ahead of things like Squash as the IOC seeks out sports that are “more gender-balanced, more youthful and more urban,” according to the IOC President Thomas Bach.

Shoot me now. Pray for sailing and its future in the Games. It won’t be long before video gaming becomes an Olympic sport. Oops there, I said it. And if I ever get on one of these daft committees where the very desire to be on them should preclude the individual from ever being considered, I’m going all out to promote Olympic Dog Walking. I’m truly world class at that. You may as well give me the medal now…

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