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Amazed. I was simply amazed. Staring at my screen in awe, watching the live broadcast of the 34th Armerica’s Cup on YouTube. How is this possible? By ‘this’ I mean foiling boats, a huge comeback, a nation supporting one sailing team and me becoming a Kiwi fan. This regatta changed sailing forever. It marks a new era.
Just like Apple changed mobile phones with their first iPhone, the America’s Cup changed sailing with their 34th edition. Everything about the 34th America’s Cup is different, better and innovative. And I know a lot has been said about the rules, the boats, Larry Ellison and Gary Jobson. But if you just forget about that and look at what these races did for the sport I love so much, then we can only take our hat off and make a deep bow.
Like any sport competed at the highest level, new inventions find their way to the game. The Volvo Ocean Race introduced the canting keel in 2005 to smaller boats and a larger audience. The 34th America’s Cup introduced foiling to monstrous cats, just a couple of weeks ago.
All these inventions will make it to our lives eventually. Within a couple of years it will be completely normal to order your cruiser racer yacht with a canting keel and if you have more budget, you might even go for the wing instead of the sail. Who will tell? Well, I will. It’s just a matter of time.
Another great thing about this ‘oldest trophy in international sports’ is AC LiveLine. This changes the whole game. All of the sudden anyone can tell which boat is in front on the upwind leg. Knowledge that previously belonged to sailors and sailors only. Now you can watch this game with your non-sailing friends. But more importantly the game is accessible to a larger audience. And we all know: the more spectators, the bigger the budgets (although huge amounts of money were already spent to get 72-foot catamarans foiling). Thank you for that!
And thank you for the postponements. Yes, I said thank you. Because of these postponements the action packed 34th America’s Cup had bigger cliffhangers than Jack Bauer had in 24. It was the best show I’ve seen in a long time.
One of the biggest participants in this event was the wind. We will remember Iain Murray’s apologies for the bad news. Off course we didn’t shoot the messenger, we would wait for 10 minutes, half an hour or a whole day. Like Ken Read said, ‘we as sailors accept the delays and postponements, we are used to it’. Because we as sailors know we have to listen to the wind. Sure it messes with your agenda. Hell it prevented my favorite team from winning the Cup. But Mother Nature is the other mother you will always listen to. So night after night (the AC live broadcast started at 22.00pm in the Netherlands) we tuned in to YouTube, hoping conditions in San Francisco bay would be perfect.
The most impressive thing about this cup however, is not about the boat, the budgets, nor the actors. It’s about its viewers and supporters. Somewhere along the Louis Vutton Cup I became a fan of Emirates Team New Zealand. And when you watch a game between two teams, you automatically pick a side. I chose for Dean Barker, Grant Dalton and the rest of their crew. Don’t know why. It just happened. And at first we were winning. Yes I said ‘we’. But even after the first lost races I kept cheering for ETNZ. I became a fan.
My support got to a whole new level after reading the open letter on Sandysviews.com the day before the grand finale. I was struck by the enthusiasm and support of New Zealand, correction, Team New Zealand, ‘because that is what is written on the boat’. It almost made me proud to be an ETNZ supporter. And remember, I live on the other side of the planet and I’ve never been there. The only kiwi’s I know are next to the apples on my kitchen table. But the way Sandy wrote about the people back in New Zealand watching the game was heart warming. Not only sailors. No, the entire nation was holding their breath when Dean steered his cat into the starting box. I couldn’t believe what I was reading, so I googled for some proof of this nation wide support. And there it was. Images and video’s of people watching the game in a giant sports halls. Tough men, mothers, little children and grandparents, standing side-by-side supporting our Team New Zealand.
Dear New Zealand I envy you. What if we have the same massive support for the sailing sport, back here in the Netherlands? Then a Dutch entry for the next Volvo Ocean Race shouldn’t be such a problem. And don’t forget, we are a true sailing nation. We shouldn’t be too proud of it but we have conquered the seas centuries ago. Building boats ever since. Sailing at the highest level, at the extremes into the unknown. It’s in our blood. And we do have great sailors. Bouwe Bekking, Gerd Jan Poortman, Pieter Jan Postma and Dirk de Ridder to name a few. The only thing we need to learn is how to support like a Kiwi. And then hopefully one day we can bring the Cup to the Netherlands. Until then I’ll support Team New Zealand like a Kiwi.