Cometh the hour, cometh the man. Mateusz Kusnierewicz is a major name on the motivational circuit, inspiring and guiding business leaders and fellow athletes in just how to manage big-time pressure and stress, imparting wisdom gained from the experience of winning a gold medal in the Finn in 1996 and countless championships. Mental toughness and resilience is the key to this Polish superstar’s success and oh how he’s shown it, proved it, and made it happen out at the utterly outstanding Bacardi Cup in the pitch-perfect setting of Biscayne Bay in Miami winning the Bacardi Cup with a day to spare.
Having had an off-day yesterday (if it were me, you’d never hear the last of it) on a soldier’s breeze course with limited overtaking lanes for Mateusz and his outstanding crew Bruno Prada, where they scored an uncustomary, but still massively respectable, sixth place, it was starting to feel as though the tide had changed.
But oh no. When it really matters. Really, truly matters, this spectacularly talented team came charging through to grab a second place in Race 5 to seal what’s been a week from the very top drawer of performance. The fact that the Polish / Brazilian pairing kept all their challengers at bay behind whilst ex Flying Dutchman and Dragon world champion Jorgen Schonherr sailing with Markus Koy from Denmark enjoyed what must be the most magical feeling of a win in the Bacardi, was big-time sailing from arguably the greatest one design sailor on the planet today.
If like me, you are fascinated by the very elite of the elite in sports and their remarkable consistency, watching Kusznierewicz and Prada is a concentration worthy of lengthy prose written by the greatest writers in the fanciest of sports psychology books. Fortunately I’m not a Phd holder so won’t try, but I know talent and class when I see it. You do too.
The mental game in the heat of battle in our sport can be intense and I particularly and sincerely admire One Design sailors who repeat the feat day after day in a week-long championship. Throw in the physical exhaustion of muscularly but brilliantly hauling a heavy, tweaky boat like the Star around long courses on every gust and through each wave whilst maintaining the headspace required to make the right calls time and again is a trick pulled by only the very best.
We can all name them – but in the Star Class it reads like a who’s who of the greatest: Lowell North, Bill Buchan, Malin Burnham, Paul Elvstrom, Pelle Petersen, Dennis Conner, Tom Blackaller, Buddy Melges, Vince Brun, Mark Reynolds, Paul Cayard, Torben Grael, Robert Scheidt…the list just goes on and on. Legends all.
And into this pantheon of the greats, the names of Kusznierewicz and Prada can be absolutely, unequivocally added (if they’re not already). They are the greatest of the modern era, and whilst it’s difficult to argue down the generations, in my view they would give any Star sailors of any time or era a mighty run for their money. Mark Reynolds to my eye was the GOAT but we can argue that one long into a night over a bottle of Bacardi anytime…
So just say this slowly – Three. Bacardi. Cups. In. A. Row. Three. Let that sink in. It’s something very special in our sport. And they’ve done it in style. No easy passes. No quarter given. Make no mistake this Star fleet is white hot with talent right the way through the rankings from top to bottom. Hell of a result to win. Congratulations to Mateusz and Bruno who not only won but gained the respect of the Star Class and the entire sailing world. So popular are this duo that it’s the happiest of wins…the rest of the fleet know they’ve just witnessed something very, very special.
And what a place to do it. Biscayne Bay served up another glamour day not only for the Stars but for the J70s, Melges 24s, Vipers and 69Fs. I particularly feel for the spinnaker trimmers on the Js and Melges – by the end of the week, and with three races a day, their arms will be a good two inches longer and you can spot the spin trimmers in the boatpark by their Popeye muscles…plenty of spinach guys and gals.
I’d happily delve into those fleets and the almighty tussles and stories unfolding but allow me to indulge my Starboat passion for a week – normal service will resume in due course and we’ll be back to squeezing America’s Cup blood out of a stone but for one, glorious, fabulous week in Miami, it’s a Star blog – apologies to those that came for more…
Oh and before I sign off – a quick chat if I may…about regatta organisation. In a word, the Bacardi Cup has been: spectacular. Race Director Eddie Cutillas phoned me before Race 4 and was keen to acknowledge the brilliance of Sara Zanobini, the Event Director who works literally all-year to pull off the impossible. In my opinion, both Eddie and Sara are outstanding and deserve much credit – so too the army of volunteers who give up their time for a branded hat and the odd Bacardi for the sake of the sailors. Heroes all. And Bacardi themselves – 95 years of sponsorship – it’s utterly remarkable and hugely foresightful to support the classiest and most glamorous event on the calendar.
As they say in England – ‘Cheers’…