It was December 17th that we first saw the America’s Cup AC75s racing in anger. Three months to the day from the first race on the Hauraki Gulf, to the race in which Emirates Team New Zealand tied up the Auld Mug.
I’ve been in the viaduct for almost every single race day over those three months. So, while the powers-that-be squabble over where to host the next competition, these are my Good and Bads from the 36th America’s Cup.
Let’s start with the bads:
-It really hurt not having foreign tourists in Auckland for the competition. It obviously affected retailers and hospitality. Over three months, I had a lot of lunch breaks at the fantastic Pantry Cafe at the gleaming new Park Hyatt hotel (I Highly recommend the portuguese custard tarts). It’s maybe the closest cafe to the Team NZ base. But until the last few days of the cup, it didn’t come close to being full. And more than the economic side of things, no foreign visitors hurt the atmosphere of the America’s Cup. Nothing against Kiwis but we generally aren’t the most excitable or passionate sport fans. And I couldn’t help but wonder, in that last week, if getting a Trans-Tasman bubble up in time for a few Aussies to come over and party would’ve added another dimension to the event.
-I think the sporting contest itself was a bit ‘meh.’ I know these are new boats and they’re only going to improve, but whether it was the port entry or the wind conditions or the relatively narrow passing lanes, a lot of the results from the Christmas Cup and the Challenger Series felt pre-determined.
-My last ‘bad’ is the number of competitors. Covid-19 played a role. So too did the cost of entry. Hopefully one of the benefits of staying with AC75s for the next few America’s Cups will be an increase in the number of teams that are able to compete.
As for the goods... I’ve got a few:
-Even on the days when the racing was average, the boats looked incredible. I’m still beguiled by the physics. How does a 75 foot boat pop up and fly on a foil at 5 times the speed of the wind?! It’s madness.
-You have to be a real misery guts to not see that as a television event being broadcast to different places around the World, the Cup was spectacular. I know the vast majority of us aren’t massive sailing fans and couldn’t explain the difference between a 49er and a Laser. I know most of the World doesn’t care either. I know that contesting the America’s Cup attracts the elite of the elite. But seeing those pictures of foiling monohulls on the Hauraki Gulf, in the shadow of Rangitoto, North Head, and Bastion point, interspersed with shots of Kiwi fans eating icecreams in the glorious sunshine, was really special. For Brand NZ Inc... the TV product makes for an awesome advertisement and even if it’s only watched by a few keen fans overseas, I think it can only have done our reputation good.
-Finally... is it so bad to have something to celebrate? A lot of people love to bag on the America’s Cup but one look at the TV1 ratings will tell you, actually, it probably brought a lot of Kiwis joy at a time when things have been a bit shit. Ok.. it’s just sport. And it’s an off-broadway sport. And very few people will care about it in a few days. But when most of the World is virus-ridden, and air travel is super-difficult... it was nice to see a few Kiwis fly.
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