Wednesday, 25 September 2013
I can't say that I've ever been particularly interested in sailing as a spectator sport in general nor in the Americas Cup in particular. Ever since happening to see the race where Emirates Team New Zealand nearly tipped their boat I have been following it very enthusiastically and as it was about 8 races to 2 to the New Zealand team I assumed that it would be fairly certain that the one race they needed to win the Cup would happen before too long.
I should have known better. Many times have I seen golf croquet matches which have been 6 :1 down being won 6:7 to the underdog (and having remarkably often been in such games and won them - we remember the ones we win more readily than the ones we lose). No game is over until it is really over!
So ever since that moment when the New Zealand boat nearly toppled I have been following the proceedings avidly.
The Americas Cup is sailing's premier event and is a best-of-17-race series in 72ft catamarans.
There are two teams entered this year:
Oracle, for the US, require 11 victories to win the series, while the Kiwis need 9 after the US team were docked two points for illegally modifying catamarans.
The winners of the 162-year-old event - it is sport's oldest trophy - get to choose the venue and format of the next America's Cup.
The US boat Oracle is bankrolled by software billionaire Larry Ellison and, having won in 2010, elected to develop the high-speed multihulls with rigid wing sails to help make the sport more exciting for spectators and on television. These controversial boats, which push the boundaries of design and performance, have attracted criticism for being too dangerous and difficult to sail in certain situations.
It was the New Zealanders who first interpreted the class design rule to pioneer the use of 'foiling' technology on keels and rudders which allows the boats to lift clear of the water and achieve speeds over 50mph.
Oracle, with five-time British Olympian Ben Ainslie in a support role, have long been training with two boats but their race team will be helmed by James Spithill of Australia. The American entry is led by Kiwi sailing great Russell Coutts, 51, a four-time America's Cup winner who steered Team New Zealand to the country's first America's Cup triumph in 1995 and was again at the helm for the successful defence against Luna Rossa in 2000.
In the run-up to this year's event, Coutts and countryman Grant Dalton, 56, of Team New Zealand clashed publicly and the two teams have sparred regularly in the media.
The America's Cup was first contested in 1851 when US yacht America won a race around the Isle of Wight off the south coast of England. The trophy, since dubbed the 'Auld Mug', was renamed the America's Cup and is seen as the pinnacle of yacht racing.
As I write this at 21:15 UK time on Wednesday 25 September the last and deciding race is being run. Unfortunately I cannot watch it live in the UK nor can I watch the live NZTV coverage on the internet here in the UK. So am relying on updates as they are published but internet difficulties at the moment are even making that a nail-biting experience. All I can do is hold my breath as Team NZ are ahead at the leeward gate. Oracle round the third mark with a big lead, now 26 seconds up. Oracle round the final mark and sprint to the finish for the last time - they've stretched the lead to 39 seconds. Oracle have crossed the line 44 seconds ahead of ETNZ.
When I started this last week it was to be a celebration post. Now it's got to this stage I suggest that you don't even bother to start reading it. I should have put that sentence at the beginning shouldn't I?