Andy Murray winning at Wimbledon. Mark Cavendish taking his 31st Tour de France victory. Oh and the small matter of England beating Germany in knock-out football. It almost feels like we’ve been transported to another era. Professional sport somehow and magnificently navigated its way deftly through the pandemic and is emerging as the ultimate unifying collective medium of expression for a grateful, weary audience that’s been devoid of the sheer thrill of live entertainment for so long.
Some 25 million people in Britain tuned in to watch the soccer yesterday evening. The roads were empty. The beer gardens were full and the fan zones were packed out with happy punters in un-flattering skin-tight viscose apparel – who really cares about the beer belly after all – England won and the fans went wild. What a week…
And so it continues this weekend. The Tour de France goes into the mountains around the ski resort of Tignes to sort the General Classification wheat from chaff. Wimbledon starts getting serious. Lewis Hamilton will be getting schooled by a young Dutchman in the Styrian Valley and the British media will be analysing to death the ins and outs of Ukrainian soccer and where England can exploit their weaknesses. In sailing, it’s the London Marathon on Saturday with the annual Round the Island Race. Let’s be honest, it will struggle to grab a headline…
Out in Cup land, Terry Hutchinson has been speaking to the media at length striking a tone of being rather left out in the cold and far away from the decision-making which he suspects is a done deal. Speaking to the excellent Richard Gladwell at Sail World, the model CEO said: “My big concern is that TNZ may already know what is happening with the next Cup, and they just aren’t telling us – which is a massive leg-up in the competition.”
And I suspect he’s bang on the money there. The framework is almost certainly agreed and the venues or THE venue are close to being locked down. The notion of a one-on-one in the Solent is a dead concept (it always was if truth be told) but a travelling circus is sounding plausible but I say that with caution.
What a global jamboree would do is open up the design window somewhat and if you’re the Defender that’s sub-optimal. The game here, curious as it sounds, is to steal that march that you earned by right of winning the Cup as it’s a key advantage and remember the Kiwis have their backs to the wall commercially so they will look to, once again, be coming out of their corner fighting like banshees from a design angle. That leads me towards a single venue where the mean winds can be gauged and the design can be locked in. If, as some would like me to believe, it’s the Middle East then we’re going 75 foot International Moths with design at a premium.
Let’s face it, the 37th Cup could see the biggest technical advances ever in sailing. A step-change that could challenge anything we’ve seen before. Yes the concept will be the same but the boats of the next generation will make the current boats look like Massey Ferguson tractors. Boat builders will be asked for the impossible and if you were looking for a career right now that might just be future-proofed for generations to come, then best you get down to your local yard and start begging for an apprenticeship. Anyone with advanced degrees in composite technology and a bent for operating on the very outer edge of physics should start preparing their CV – the Cup teams want you.
And then there’s the mechatronics guys. You know, the ones that I wrote about a few moons ago. The ones that did their homework, got their engineering degrees and didn’t become boat bums hanging around the dinghy park looking cool like you. Yes the nerds have taken over. These are the guys and girls providing the technology so when the button is pressed, fancy stuff happens upstairs to induce camber, twist, depth and gauge whilst sending vortices funnelling down the Arabian track causing mini sandstorms from Jumeirah Beach to Jebel Ali. Sunbathers on that coastline beware. The Mechatronics gang are coming to ruin your afternoons and they are rock ‘n’ roll in the Cup – the difference between a jolly good show and a slam dunk. They can pretty much name their price…and Tesla wants them too.
So whilst the Cup enjoys the air cover of a battery of sporting events firing onto our screens at will at the moment, it’s all going on behind the scenes. Credit to the guys making the decisions, the non-disclosure agreements are being adhered to the letter. Leaks from trustworthy sources are scarce. There’s a lot of talking around the fringes and curious messages being sent and whispers but it’s all two plus two equals five.
We’ll have to just enjoy the closed-door Olympic Games, cheer on England, clap Andy Murray, shout at the Austrian Grand Prix, marvel at the climbers efforts in La Tour and I’m looking forward to the longest day on Saturday…conditions look ultra light on the Isle of Wight…who’d have a Cup here in the summer anyway? Bonkers idea…