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Gladwell's Line- Cup fever hits New Zealand heartland

by Richard Gladwell on 21 Sep 2013
San Francisco, 34th America’s Cup Final - Oracle Team USA Carlo Borlenghi/Luna Rossa© http://www.lunarossachallenge.com
Wind limits once again robbed fans and the sailors of another race in the 34th America’s Cup, but not after Oracle Team USA notched another win, in the first race of the day, on Day 9 of the regatta that seems to have no end.

As yesterday, the wind measure was reset several times for the second start of the first race of the day. Eventually a start was attempted, however the race officials were up against the 2.40pm deadline, after which no racing is allowed to be started.

As yesterday, the long story short, was that the pre-start wind limit was exceeded and that killed all further racing for the day.


In the first race, Race 12, Oracle Team USA took full advantage of an error made by Emirates Team NZ, who were forced to tack away just before the start to avoid Oracle Team USA. Barker’s response to Spithill’s luff was the correct one. The timing of it so close to the start meant that Emirates Team NZ has no time left to set up again for the start and giving away that sort of margin to Oracle Team USA, who are greatly improved since the start of the regatta is a big ask – too bigger ask.

At the post match media conference the question of wind limits was again raised. And Oracle Team USA put into the public arena, the fact that they have written to the Challenger suggesting that the wind limit should be increased. Barker’s response was that they initially wanted a 25kts limit. Oracle Team USA wanted 20kts, and Regatta Director Iain Murray struck a compromise at 23kts – and then made the tidal adjustment to the wind limit, that is unique to this event.


Barker responded to the Oracle taunt on the wind limit, by saying that he believed the event should be sailed under the rules that were set at the outset of the racing, and not changed midway through the Regatta.

Presumably he would be of a different mind, if the rules were applied retrospectively and Emirates Team NZ were given back the win for the first sailing of Race 9, when the pin was pulled, after a wind limit was exceeded, about one third of the way up Leg 3, while they were leading

But of course that would have given the Kiwi’s the Match Point they need to take the America’s Cup back to New Zealand.


In San Francisco, frequent questions are asked of the New Zealand team if they feel the pressure of their supporters back in the Land of the Long White Cloud.

For sure the enthusiasm in Auckland, at least, is just unbelievable and almost at Rugby World Cup level.

Last year's Rugby World Cup win was a monkey off the Kiwi’s backs - having only won previously in 1987. For a sport which is akin to a national Religion, 25 years between wins is an eternity.

Back off the plane this morning into Auckland, we got out first inkling of the state of the Kiwi yachting nation, when the pilot came on the PA system to give the usual discourse on weather conditions in Auckland (yes, it is raining), and then proceeded to spend three or four minutes telling the passengers how they could see the America’s Cup racing on TV and that it would start in a couple of hours time.


Going through Customs, one of the officials there went up the line telling her captive audience to make sure they should 'Lean with Dean' a reference to the 'Lean on Us' campaign run by major and long time Emirates Team NZ sponsor, Toyota.

Heading from the airport to the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron, there was no traffic. The morning rush-hour has gone, Traffic level’s could be best described as light to moderate – with everyone staying home to watch the racing.

Hardly surprising when the opening day attracted an audience put at 820,000 thousand viewers – and that is in a country of just over four million in population. Any TV show, radio show or website running America's Cup coverage has been rating its red socks off, since the start of the Match.


At RNZYS it was standing room only. And that is in the entire ground floor of a very large building which had three TV screens set up for members and guests. We counted at least five major media organisations (TV and radio) running live from the RNZYS.

Apparently it was a similar scene in Shed 10, on the Auckland waterfront - which is also packed out. Plans are now underway to accommodate people in The Cloud - a massive public viewing facility developed for the Rugby World Cup.

Arriving home to pick up the NZ Herald – with the frontpage and first six pages are devoted to America’s Cup, then there is a few pages break, before another couple of AC pages follow, plus another four or so in the Sports section.

The America's Cup completely dominates talkback radio - and leads the prime time new on both majaor TV channels.


Yes, New Zealand has a very bad dose of America’s Cup fever.

While the support is undoubtedly for the team, Kiwis desperately want to get the monkey of the 2003 loss off their backs - hence the intense interest.


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