Can you just imagine the emails going around the more considered, revered members of the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron right now? They’re no fools. They’re no mugs. They’re thoroughly decent, welcoming, affable, knowledgeable people. Great sailors too. Weapons-grade in the bar. It’s a club you want to go to. A club you have to go to. It’s a privilege to be a member.
But as close to daylight robbery is happening right now under their noses and they must be mad as hell, but you’d never know. The silverware is being purloined by a ruthless gentleman gang masquerading as sailors, smiling politely, nodding in appreciation and making off in the fastest waterborne get-away car known to mankind. It’s a mugging. It’s a felony. It’s the crime of the century. It’s happening in plain sight.
And what’s more, with the America’s Cup going 100% overseas if we’re to believe what’s said, that’s it, it’s game over. Home advantage donated, gifted, handed on a silver platter, it’s like a wayward, looping hospital pass in the 22 with no full-back to cover. The length of the pitch looks like an easy run now and it’s a dive beneath the posts. Would the All Blacks relent so easily? Not a chance. It’s like Edmund Hillary getting to those famous steps on Everest and turning round because it’s too hard. Really?
Perhaps the path of least resistance now would be to just package that ugly ewer up, take a couple of farewell selfies and DHL or FedEx the Auld Mug to PO31 7QT c/o The Commodore. Save the bother and expense of mounting a charade of a defence overseas and bid it safe travels from the clubhouse – ‘it ain’t ever coming back,’ as Billy the Kid would say.
Giving away home advantage is massive. It’s like deferring a Rugby World Cup Final at Eden Park to Twickenham – against England. In my view it’s so daft to be almost comical. Not holding the Cup in Auckland is suicide plain and simple, and after the issuance of the most challenger-favourable Protocol in the storied history of the America’s Cup having been out-manoeuvred, out-played and money-struck by a billionaire, an overseas venue announcement for The Challenger Series and the Match (one and the same thing) is the final death knell. The last rites of Kiwi yachting at the apex of the sport might well as be read. Turn off the life-support machine and comfort the relatives. It was fun whilst it lasted. They had a good innings.
If I were a member I’d be hopping mad. Vessels would be bursting. I would have ruined several club ties by now. If I were a Kiwi and a diehard fan, I’d be breaking lockdown restrictions, camping outside the club with protest banners and the biggest loud hailer I could find on Amazon. Let the police deal with me but then I’d be online creating the mother of all stinks on social media and demanding more from both the club and the sporting team. I’d be downright furious at the throw-away line in the Protocol announcement video about the mysterious left-field venue that no-one has talked about whilst Ben Ainslie smirked in recognition. Furious.
As a Kiwi that’s bought every team shirt, flown every flag, painted my face, got the kids involved, almost lost my job supporting my home team, hosted the watch parties, bought that new barbecue, worn the lucky underpants and cheered every slam-dunk vortex tack against the Italians in that fabulous summer, I’d be raging. Hopping mad doesn’t do it justice. You’re taking MY Cup away and you think that’s a good idea? You think I’m taking this lying down whilst some foreign City gets to host…not a chance. I’m a Kiwi and my culture doesn’t do losing…and certainly not like this.
Meanwhile back in Britain, we can’t quite believe what we’re seeing. Did Team New Zealand really just roll over and ask for their tummy to be tickled? Was it that easy? Are they that starstruck by our backer? Okay we’ve got to turn up at some venue – throw a dart, pick a seaside town – and we’ve got to sail around a course for five races, but the good news is that we priced out the competition, stuffed everyone on the nationality rule and even if they did want to join in, we’re miles ahead, months ahead already with the most glamorous and winning F1 team behind us.
No vociferous, raging, intimidating home supporters getting right under our skin on the morning run and dock-out. No agitating local media relentlessly needling us. No Italians getting uppity with us. No Pitbull to beat. Not even an American challenge. Instead on our cakewalk to the podium, we’re going to have either a home crowd (can you believe that?) or a completely bemused neutral foreign crowd. Result.
Crack on is what I say. Take the Cup to Jeddah. Take it to Plymouth. Take it to Spain. Easy pickings. The nightmare is Auckland for us. Thanks goodness the government is so supine about one of the world’s great sporting events and can’t see the value in it. Those spreadsheet jockeys in the local council and those laughable accountants are worth their weight in gold. And thank goodness we don’t have to interact with the most knowledgeable and downright competitive sailing public on the planet. Phew. Could you make it any easier?
Team New Zealand relented on the Protocol and gave up on Auckland months ago. You couldn’t make this up. All credit to them. The simple fact, reiterated a million times is that New Zealand can’t afford the Cup. It can’t be hosted in the country. There’s not enough money and the Kiwi Home Defence project is ‘unhelpful’ according to Grant Dalton. Nobody else is willing to step forward. It has to go overseas. Those are the facts. It’s totally unquestionable. It’s legend set in stone. And there won’t and can’t be any last minute reprieve. Phew…
AC37 is now winnable. It’s gift wrapped. It’s there to be taken. It’s a ready-made, one-sided feast that for once isn’t in the Defender’s favour. This is one in 200 years. This shade of lightning will never strike again. And the rules are so tight that no-one else is going to bother – they’ve been written out by the smartest Protocol ever. If you wrote this in fiction, no agent would promote your book. It belongs in the fantasy shelves. The carcass of Kiwi yachting is just there to be picked over.
Don’t worry, we’ll be utterly polite, terribly courteous, smile at the right moments and close the door after we leave. Manners will be impeccable. You’ll be welcome in Cowes in 2028. We’ll book your rooms for you now. Delay the venue decision for as long as you like – anywhere but Auckland will do just fine for us Brits.
Wake me up, I must be dreaming. Is this really happening?