Blake’s Way

Twenty years on from the tragic loss of Sir Peter Blake, the sailing world remembers a giant amongst men. A visionary in conservation, a master mariner offshore, an America’s Cup winner, Sir Peter was everything, embodying a Kiwi spirit that is inspiring, no-nonsense, practical and determined. That spirit lives on in New Zealand yachting and I’m certain he would be pleased to see the torch of conservation and sustainability passing effortlessly on through to today’s superstars of the sport – both in New Zealand and around the world. It’s a heck of a fire he lit.

©Carlo Borlenghi

And as his legacy burns ever brighter, and our recollections grown fonder as the years pass, I wonder what he would make of the current Cup scenario. We have entries galore for AC37 and that’s just fantastic to see – Alinghi coming back is the biggest sign of all – but Luna Rossa and American Magic also allegedly in the mix alongside a committed Challenger of Record in Ineos Britannia would have Sir Peter’s competitive juices flowing. But ever the pragmatist, he would be looking at those money-no-object challenges and navigating a safe path to victory. If that meant overseas, so be it.

©Carlo Borlenghi

It’s a difficult situation now. I would go as far as saying it’s critical and the reports in the Kiwi business media, aping what I’ve been writing for over a week now but amplified with on-the-record quotes from Team New Zealand, is that the home team will collapse if motions are passed that demand the event in Auckland.

For the agitators on the other side, I don’t see any evidence that they’ve grasped this yet. There’s still briefings going on denouncing this and that and almost claiming a nobility in poverty – there’s no nobility in poverty. Shoe-string defences lose. How much clearer can that be?

With the might of Bertarelli, Bertelli, De Vos and Ratcliffe ranged against Team New Zealand, the membership of the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron have a decision to make, the consequences of which are wide-ranging – far more than would appear.

If you play the tape forward, Team New Zealand collapses and the most valuable IP and personnel walks. They won’t be back in a hurry and from the ashes of ruin, mediocrity arises. The Cup is done and dusted in an embarrassment of a cobbled-together defence that would place the sailors like lambs to the slaughter. Auckland wouldn’t thank them.

©ACE / Studio Borlenghi

An alternative version, played before the membership, sees Team New Zealand and the RNZYS sign off on the Hosting Agreements already in place and a significant financial lifeline is thrown from overseas, enabling the very best chance of capitalising on the commonly held belief that the design team is at least six months ahead, if not more.

Everyone is playing catch-up and it doesn’t matter if you’ve got petrol-heads scaring the design horses, what Team New Zealand has is clear areas of immediate improvement, a massive understanding of the nuances of the Protocol they wrote (and I have been told by the team that they are happy with what they got from that process – and that’s a worry) and the best team with one of the very best drivers imaginable. Even Slingsby looks up to Outteridge.

©Emirates Team New Zealand / C Cameron

It’s a stark choice. There are angling sharks circling the carcass, for what end-game no-one truly knows, but in a stroke of the members’ votes they are off back to the depths, probably never to be seen again. The mighty Kiwi whale miraculously recovers and swims off effortlessly to sunny horizons. Stay wallowing and they’re dead meat, consumed alive, picked off by media pronouncements, ten-a-penny vanity commentary and rampant ego with a scary sub-text.

Hardly the Kiwi way. Sir Peter wouldn’t tolerate it. The right decision needs to be taken this week. Grant Dalton needs thunderous support to ring out loud and clear from the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron. The team members need to hear and feel that Kiwi roar. Sponsors need to know that the team’s strategy is supported full-square by the club. No doubt. No politics. No nonsense. Blake’s way.

I have every faith it will and Team New Zealand will be mandated to excellence.


8 thoughts on “Blake’s Way

  1. I have a huge amount of respect for Sir Peter Blake, his sportsmanship, and his legacy. I doubt either of us are sufficiently suitable inheritors of his mantle to presume to know what he would or would not approve of. An assumption that he would approve of auctioning the Cup off to Jeddah seems quite presumptuous. Perhaps I will change my mind after today’s F1, but I doubt it.


    1. Mercedes once again proven today why they are “BORN WINNERS”. Things did not look good after Hamilton fumbled the 3rd Start. You have to have the Car but you also need to have the instinct of the Driver. Lewis knew his Car was faster and he just needed to wait for his Opportunity and then in typical Max Verstappen Fashion he hit the brakes and didn’t hold his line causing a collision.

      Ben Ainslie should be very, very proud having Mercedes GP Engineering in his corner. These guys ain’t clowns, they will give him a fast Boat for AC37!

      Liked by 1 person

    2. That’s the convenient thing about a seance, isn’t it? The dead always seem to agree with the opinions of the medium…


  2. Magnus,
    I just hope RNZYS come to their senses and vote down this Farmer Motion otherwise I dunno what happens. AC37 could be in complete limbo then.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. This is really one of the problems with the whole structure, isn’t it? In a conventional sport with independent governance, a venue would be chosen and the event organized independently, with the champion free to focus on just preparing their A-game.

      Perhaps we should have left the 19th century gentleman’s agreements behind at the NYYC and formalized the AC in 1983. After forty years, it seems quite apparent that the system designed for perpetual NYYC dominance doesn’t work outside of that environment (insofar as we could even say it worked there and then).


      1. When you say that the system stopped working in 1983 I am afraid I have to respectfully disagree. The 1987 Cup in Perth was arguably the best of all time. It is only possibly superseded by the 2000 version in Auckland which in turn only slightly exceeded 2007 in Valencia followed by 1995 in San Diego followed by 2003 in Auckland followed perhaps by 1992 in San Diego.

        In fact, I think the conclusion we can draw is that everything was going wonderfully well until we got to boats where the apparent wind is always forward of the beam which effectively ruins match racing tactics, eliminates sail-handling skill and makes it a pure boat-speed game.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I am not denying that there have been great moments in the AC since 1983 (or since 2007, for that matter!). But time and time again, it seems like the controversies that have arisen in the past 40 years have been the result of the AC as a concept having developed with the idea that the NYYC *would* always be in control and ensure a continuity of rules and customs, and then the international era of the Cup proceeding with no one institution being able to enforce similar continuity.

        Thus, the court cases, the equipment changes, the venue negotiations, the nationality controversies…

        1983 was a break with the past and an opportunity to modify the AC as an institution to proceed more smoothly outside of the environment it had developed within for more than a century.

        I wouldn’t be on this site if I didn’t think the AC can be great. I just think it could have been even better.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Shoe-string defences lose? How come NZ sporting success is littered with shoe-string budgets?

    Information is not wisdom. Complicated is guaranteed failure. Only Simplicity is wisdom.

    A Samurai contemplates his world possessions:- a sword, a teapot with 2 cups and a book of poetry. He only sees victory with honour.


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