Gone

Auckland’s obituary should not need to be written. I’m not writing it. But the fall from the epicentre of the world to one-horse town run by tin-pot dictators and political agitators at the bottom of the globe has been faster than a stock market flash crash. It’s desperately sad to see. I actually don’t want to see it, I’m in denial, but the party’s over barring a last minute miracle that isn’t coming. Viewing the photos, sent into me (un-credited – apologies) by a German reader of this blog, of American Magic’s base being de-constructed and Patriot shrink-wrapped, ready for shipping, reminds me of Detroit after the car industry left.



It’s a scene you would imagine if the Kiwis had been abjectly beaten, stuffed on their own waters magnificently, the Cup ripped from their grasp and off to new beginnings in the Solent or Newport or Cagliari…perhaps even Lake Geneva after a Deed of Gift fist-fight. But no, this is the winner’s backyard. This is happening right now. The Cup is not going to be in Auckland in the next cycle. That ship has sailed.

Now that’s not to say that the Cup itself won’t remain upstairs at the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron, glaring down like the Greek goddess of Rhamnousia with the trance inducing power of Morpheus to all-comers who dare to dream. Oh no, that ugly ewer could be locked up in the gentrified shed on Westhaven Drive for many cycles to come, bet against that at your peril, but will the Hauraki Gulf ever provide the aqua platform for the skimmers again?



I’ve written about it before but one of the saddest sights in our sport is the America’s Cup in the immediate aftermath. The once fortress-like bases have long-since excused the man-mountain guards and the apron is like a public walkway. Containers are loaded, cherry-pickers are beeeping loudly extracting the bones of temporary structures. Last night’s barbecue of thanks smoulders amidst full-to-the-brim makeshift bins gratefully housing the excess and remnants of platitude and gratitude. The centrepiece boats, even the winners, are now throw-away items of yesterday’s thinking, unlikely to ever be sailed again in anger. The rock-stars have long since departed, thoroughly sick of the whole damn thing and off to spend valuable time in reality with the family or on to the next mug’s game in a glamour destination. Team kit is available on the bargain rail.

The rose tinted spectacles of the America’s Cup fade to clear and it’s an ugly, windy, barren place to witness. Speculation and regret fill the void. Vital workers, real people, earning a day wage in a hard hat and luminous vest replace the supposed glamour of the highly-paid backed by the largesse of patriarchs committing a rounding error of their fortune to winning a place in history. But it goes again and the same mirage of hope is spun. The America’s Cup is a powerful Siren of historical world sport.

But if pictures tell a thousand words, the Cup is off to pastures unknown. I checked with the team yesterday and they were saying little. What else could they say? After the Magic boats leave, only Te Rehutai will remain as a lasting memory of a fabulous Cup run in New Zealand. It too, won’t be there long. Memories have been made but it’s over for now. The bases will be dismantled, local government will erect the next generation of millennial housing and faux-industry and slowly the remnants of the Cup will be dismantled. Sad but true.


©COR36 / Studio Borlenghi

It could have been different. Bold political vision and purpose against a hellish pandemic backdrop of the unknown would have been required. In hindsight it’s easy to criticise and even easier from afar but a truly global event that put New Zealand so firmly on the map has slipped through their hands like an England cricketer at silly mid-on. The Cup could have been secured for generations to come but the government played reason in awful circumstances never believing that the bluff of abyss would be called. It has. And no amount of posturing from home-grown bellyachers will stop it. Call for an audit if you like. The circus left town a long time ago and the last elephants are hitching a ride via Suez to new uncertain but certain pastures. The Antonov’s won’t be flying into the cargo port at Auckland International anytime soon.

I expected a backlash but it’s one shorn of teeth. It’s a sucking up of the inevitable by a fabulous nation that absolutely deserves better. It’s a situation of the shambolic. Walk a mile in a Kiwi’s shoes at this loss and ‘disappointment’ wouldn’t quite curry as a descriptor. I’d be furious. I’d be campaigning. I’d find it hard to rally around the flag let alone the cause. I’d be wrong and reactionary. (I usually am). But that’s what’s being asked, at its basest of levels, of the Kiwi supporters now as the America’s Cup game has gone stratospheric and there’s no way that Team New Zealand will dare to put their fabulous name to anything but ultimate sporting success. I agree with that. I truly, madly do. But it comes at a cost that is high.


©COR36 / Studio Borlenghi

And what does this look like if, as expected, the Kiwis storm the 2024 Cup and retain? No matter what the success of a venue in the Middle East or Europe served, no matter the riches that delivered it, the demand has to be to bring it back to Auckland.

If I were a Kiwi supporter I’d be leasing my support on an expectation that the same trick won’t be pulled twice. The politicians will have changed by 2028, they may even be long gone by 2024. The politics will certainly be different. Life will be different. The Cup must come back. That’s the only hope or else what does it say about the nation?

No obituary needed. New Zealand will be back. And it will be glorious.


16 thoughts on “Gone

  1. I suppose the “revelation” is almost as old as the Cup itself— “an abiding interest” is half of a quote that goes on to say “these boats have the attraction of sin”— and it’s hard to find a book that doesn’t, for all the enthusiasm and dramatization, have a sour undertone somewhere. But here it is again in your description of a host port after the event— the inescapable sense of “Is it really worth it?”

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    1. I actually really admire the first edition of “The Billionaire and the Mechanic” for daring to end on that bittersweet note— a scene of Ellison eating dinner alone and realizing he doesn’t feel any different than he did before he won. It may be a blatantly pro-Oracle book, but Guthrie still ended with that melancholy “Is it really worth it?” moment, and I think it would have been a lesser AC book if she hadn’t.

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      1. What a small world! Over the last couple of nights I have just re-read that book for the third time before putting it away forevermore as I move into a tiny apartment. (I have an enormous AC Library going back to ’83 if anyone is buying).

        I thought she wrote a pretty good book.

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      2. I think it is a good book, although there are a few factual errors (Jimmy Spithill is described as both 18 in 1998 and 19 in 2003, which would require inhumanly slow aging!), and it’s kind of weird how everyone EXCEPT Dean Barker gets called by their first name.

        It was my first introduction to the AC right before AC 35 and it does give a good background for the modern situation. I like that Guthrie does make the story she tells more complex than just a straightforwardly triumphant tale, not just with that scene at the end but by showing the venue negotiations and how they start immediately after the victory, and detailing Nobert’s family issues.

        What else have you got in your library? My apartment is also pretty small but I might be able to pick up one or two things.

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  2. Congratulations! I had to look up “Rhamnousia.”

    I disagree with you on one point: if TNZ choose to concede home waters advantage and defend in the Middle East or Europe they will lose the Cup. Perhaps that is no bad thing; it would lead to an event in Cowes or Newport or Valencia or Cagliari where it could be held with dignity.

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    1. With respect, I firmly believe they are a generation ahead in just about all departments. To beat them, a challenger will have to have massive resources and a team at the very very top of their talents.

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      1. I certainly take your point. I may be proven wrong, but I believe there is a widespread underestimate of the value of the resources brought by, for example, the Mercedes F1 team which are now surplus to requirements due to the budget cap. In my mind this doesn’t come in the form of nautical architecture or even wing aero, but rather in more mundane things like resource allocation and planning, rapid prototyping and fabrication, non-destructive composite and metallurgical inspection, data warehousing and analysis, telemetry, hydraulics, systems integration, Monte Carlo simulations, and other fields (not to mention marketing).

        Having said that, you are certainly correct that TNZ started the cycle at the apex of the field.

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      2. Spot on with the analysis there but I have a sneaking suspicion that ETNZ got exactly what they wanted in the Protocol and are sneaking off down an avenue (i don’t know what) that will make it impossible to close the gaps on them. From this far out, I think they will win again unless Ineos throw more than the kitchen sink at it…

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      1. I agree; it was a great event held in almost impossible circumstances, and I was disappointed not to be able to attend this time (as I attended Auckland in 2000 and 2003 and Valencia in 2007 and 2010). That is why I will be doubly disappointed if it is not in Auckland this time as I will not likely go to Cork or Riyadh or Abu Dhabi.

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      2. Well, somewhere down the line, when all of these troubles are behind us, I hope we can all meet up at some event somewhere!

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      3. Can agree on something simple: The best regatta that has ever happened in the history of planet Earth was the America’s Cup Sesquicentennial in Cowes in 2001.

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      4. Imagine if someday we have regattas OFF Planet Earth like in Arthur C. Clarke’s The Wind From The Sun?

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