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18 Jul 2013
Sail-World New Zealand: July 18, 2013 - America's Cup Fever breaks out
America's Cup Fever is beginning to turn into an epidemic in New Zealand, as proper racing has got underway in San Francisco. Sadly only one contested race has been sailed to date, and it may be that there are only two more in the Round Robin before the outcome is known.
The fans are split into two groups – those who don't really follow yachting as such, but are mesmerized by the sight of wingsailed foiling catamarans at two or more times the wind speed.
Then there are the sailing nuts that follow every nuance, and for whom anything less than 24hr live television coverage is a travesty.
The breaking Cup Fever epidemic manifests itself in many ways.
There's people like my 91year old mother, who has watched every Louis Vuitton and America's Cup race live since 1987 – until this year when there has been only one race on free to air television. But she'll watch any sport in which New Zealand is competing.
Then there's one of my long time friends, who has a foot in either camp. He's in hospital recovering from a surgery epic, and subsequent complications. I went into the Critical Care Unit (that's one ward away from Death Row), with my 17' laptop in hand, as I heard he'd been bitching about missing the race on Sunday. (A sure sign he was on the recovery.)
When I went in, he was half asleep, with a few tubes, hanging out of him.
Luna Rossa Challenge 2013 Chases Emirates Team NZ - Louis Vuitton Cup
Luna Rossa / Carlo Borlenghi
'Wanna see the America's Cup?' There was a croak followed by a terrible chesty cough as he came vertical, with the adrenalin kicking in. Twenty seconds later he had gone to eyes half shut to wide open, as I hooked up the mobile phone to the laptop, pushed his pills and potions to one side, and we settled down for 40 minutes of surreal sailing television.
There wasn't a lot said. He couldn't. He'd had a tracheotomy, and this evening, was a man of very few words. With several smashed teeth as a result of some surgical shenanigans, to boot. Speaking didn't come easily to someone who usually had a lot to say.
But all that was forgotten as he followed the flying foilers in San Francisco.
There was the occasional gasp 'Wow, that's unbelievable!' As he pumped a bit of air through his voice box. He was in another world. 'Did you see that?' Yes I had, at least ten times already, but I didn't tell him that.
After about 30 minutes, a blue gowned specialist who had been attending a chap over the way, popped his head around the curtain, wondering what was going on. I was expecting to get kicked out.
A tallish man, he leant over the top of the screen. 'Wow, those boats are incredible, aren't they? You should see the technology they use – it's amazing!' And then took off to do what he does best, leaving us to enjoy the rest of the race.
My mate certainly enjoyed it. Just the tonic he needed.
The only thing wrong with the Louis Vuitton Cup is that there is not enough of it.
The solo Round Robins should never have been allowed to happen. It's a daft option.
The teams are there to race. And if Artemis declined to race, then the other boat should at least have been invited to compete in their place (but not eligible for the point). That's what the Challenger Series is all about – to build strength into the Challenger – who ever that ultimately is.
What is interesting is that despite the solo racing the replays on Youtube have got good viewership.
The first solo race got over 85,000 views, the next two solo races got 71,000 views, and the only contested race got 87,000 views. Then someone decided that they wouldn't put uncontested races on YouTube.
Don't forget those viewing numbers are in spite of widespread YouTube viewing blocks in many countries where there are TV rights broadcasters.
In NZ, to TVNZ's credit they haven't followed Cup organiser's example, and are broadcasting each and every race live, (on their web channel) and also have the replays of every race available as well.
Weird as it may seem, the solo races are very good. Not so much for racing contest – it is a speed trial. But for the specialist commentators who have been in operation – Luna Rossa's David Carr and Emirates Team NZ's Richard Meacham – giving some great insights and explanations that are just not possible in the context of a 40 minute race with two AC72's sailing at over 40 kts.
As we have said before, the time to judge this America's Cup will be once it is over. Not before.
Aside from the Louis Vuitton Cup, the other event of interest at present is the ISAF Youth Worlds in Cyprus. Current Emirates Team NZ skipper, Dean Barker, is a former gold medalist in the singlehanded Boys Laser event in this regatta.
While the Regatta is generally the major development event for the Olympics, the real measure is the performance in the Teams Trophy – awarded for the combined points of a competing country. The outcome is a test of the depth of young talent in the top nations.
Of late, New Zealand teams have largely fluffed it on the Opening Day, and have never really recovered. Although for sure there have been the brilliant performers and medalists who go onto greater things.
This year, it is a better pattern – with a good first day, a better second, and holding the line on the third. All crews are very tight – all being in the top six in their respective classes. After three days New Zealand lies in third overall, despite being represented in only five of the eight events. We have daily reports on the regatta, thanks to Yachting NZ's Jodie Bakewell-White.
We have coverage of the Optimist Worlds, too, which are now underway on Lake Garda, Italy. Along with the French 420 Nationals, being sailed in France, oddly enough.
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