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America's Cup Book Review- Winging It - Oracle Team USA's comeback

by Richard Gladwell on 19 Apr 2014
San Francisco, 34th America’s Cup Final - Oracle Team USA vs Emirates Team New Zealand Carlo Borlenghi/Luna Rossa©

Winging It by noted America's Cup writers Diane Swintal, Steven Tsuchiya, and Robert Kamins, is not your father's book on the America's Cup.

For openers, it is soft cover. The illustrations are in black and white. There are frequent sidebars to fill in gaps that don't warrant a full chapter, or give the reader a bit of a backgrounder.

This is not a coffee table book, but more a working primer on the 34th America's Cup, the events that led up to the Match, and the racing it self - summarized in both narrative and data formats.

From San Francisco Bay, the venue of the 34th America's Cup, you could almost see Silicon Valley, and not surprisingly this was the Cup that most embraced the interweb, and which provided a seemingly infinite store of information, still images and video on the Cup.

Rather than try to compete with the interweb, Winging It - by design or default - works as both a fan's and a newbie's guide to that information trove.

Die-hard Cup fans may be disappointed that there is not a lot of new insights into the Cup. But will appreciate that that their knowledge gaps are highlighted by this book. The text is short and punchy in its style. There are no long elaborate chapters of interviews with key players. Rather Winging It covers the key points, summarizes the information, provides the explanation and moves on.

Written largely from an Oracle Team USA perspective, the book does cover the Challengers, development of the AC 72 rule and the major non-racing issues of the event, including the Oracle capsize, the Artemis fatality, and the AC45 boat tampering.

Each are covered in a reasonably timeless way with the facts being presented along with comment from those involved on the lessons learned. There is more depth on the Oracle incident, with the Artemis situation still being too raw to handle in depth at the time Winging It was written and published in late 2012. The basics of the ongoing boat tampering issue are covered in brief.

The book's most unique feature is its potted history of the America's Cup, which is just excellent. This is a subject on which many books have been written - and most of which are way too elaborate for the average reader.

Winging It covers a lot of historical ground, or rather 162 years of time, very well, focusing not on who won which race and by how much - but more looking at the various eras, how they influenced the present. There are some very good statistical analysis of trends in the America's Cup - numbers of Challengers, cost of America' Cup campaigns, and average win margins per Match.

Then there are interesting analyses such as to five reasons why the New York Yacht Club held the Cup from 1851 to 1980, followed by a good look at the modern era of the America's Cup from 1980 - the start of the Louis Vuitton Cup and a competitive Challenger Selection Series. The decline of nationalism is also covered - again setting out the high-level history, highlighting a couple of conclusions and moving on. Once again the jigsaw is neatly put together in a way that the non-sailing fan can understand.

This is a book aimed at everyone - from those who have just found the America's Cup, intrigued by the AC72 wingsailed catamaran, the changes from the 12 Metre era, more recently International America's Cup Class of monohulls, and who just want to know more from a book that can be carried around in their kitbag.

Then there are those who are long-time Cup fans, who just need a quick reference, on some point or incident, as a memory refresher or statistical pointer. In this regard, Winging It has proved to be excellent.

Reading Winging It underlines just how much did happen in the course of the 34th America's Cup, the amount of change that went on, and how all that dovetails together into the event which is remembered primarily for its outcome.

As would be expected there is a race by race account of the Match, followed by an analysis of why Oracle Team USA was able to achieve their win, plus a look forward to the implications of the 34th Match on the next event. There's a summary of the likely Challengers, which still holds good five months after it was written.

The most popular feature of Winging It will be its price at just $24.95USD putting it within everyone's budget and a financial trade-off for its black and white images.

Winging It holds a place on my bookshelf that is within easy reach. It has become the go-to book on the 34th America’s Cup as a means of quickly checking a fact, or time sequence or some aspect of the Cup that has become a little fuzzy even after this short passage of time.

It should have a place in everyone's laptop kitbag, either as a quick read in a spare moment, or as a serious reference.

How to get your copy:

Winging It: Oracle Team USA's incredible comeback to Defend the America's Cup

(McGraw-Hill Professional/International Marine, 224 pages with 37 b&w photos, 12 charts and illustrations)

The book is now available in US bookstores and online sellers.

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