There is a saying in sailing circles “Britannia rules the waves while America waves the rules”!
The high tech US Yacht Racing Team was on the verge of losing the Americas Cup to the Emirates New Zealand team, in what would have been a bitter defeat for Silicon Valley billionaire, Larry Ellison, who spent around $100 Million on the US effort.
This American team have been found guilty of what has been described as the biggest cheating scandal in the 162 year history of the Americas Cup. The team has been fined $250,000 and docked two race points. Three crew members have been banned from the whole even and a fourth suspended for four races. The cheating involved gross breaches of the rules by illegally modifying their boat involving hiding bags of lead weights in Kevlar bags which make the one-design catamaran go faster, think formula 1 cars!
Last week with the Kiwis only needing to win one more race, Oracle replaced their tactician, John Koslechi – who was one of only two Americans on the eleven man crew. He was replaced by their Ace-in-the Hole, British Olympic Star Sir Ben Ainslie.
Until Ben Ainslie was brought in as Helmsman/Tactician, New Zealand only needed one more win to take the Americas Cup back to Auckland. Since then Ainslie and the weather have closed the gap to 8-5 and extended the longest series into yet another day. The fourth day in a row the Kiwis have started out on match point having won six out of seven races but only two of the last six. Ben Ainslie’s influence in both results is clear.
I have been a keen yachtsman all of my long life but have never been able to get excited about the Americas Cup. There has never been a taking on the World feel about it. The rules and cost have meant that only four teams have entered this year. The Swedes turned up late and like the Italian team, were very second rate. Only America and New Zealand were ever serious contenders.
Sailing has never been a spectator sport and I have always been very much a participant. However modern filming techniques together with sponsors needing exposure, this year has meant that the Cup has become quite watchable TV. This in spite of such blatant Nationalism from the American commentators.
They bang the drum for Oracle stressing that this is the American boat failing to mention that it has only a single American crew member, one of the ‘grinders’, the remainder being made of Australians, New Zealanders, Dutch, Canadian, Antiguan and of course the Helmsman/Tactician Sir Charles Benedict Ainslie, an Englishman. – The best crew money can buy, whom only need to lose a single race, for ignominy.
Dare I say that in the real world of yacht racing where such blatant cheating was exposed, the offending boat would have been disqualified from the event. In spite of all the hype and pseudo nationalism from the San Franciscans, the Americas Cup isn’t sailings premier event. It’s just a billionaire’s boat race.