In 2013, I was living in the U.S and charged with covering most of North America as a reporter for TVNZ. I remember ringing my manager early in the year and asking about our plans for the San Francisco America’s Cup.
“No one really cares about the America’s Cup.” She said. “If it was here in New Zealand, maybe we’d do a bit more. We’ll have one reporter in San Francisco but that’ll be more than enough.”
To be fair, my manager at the time was from overseas and had only been living in New Zealand for a year or two. Subsequently, I felt obliged to push back a little bit.
“Ummm…” I said. “I think you’re underestimating what this competition means for New Zealanders. “I get it… sailing’s a bit off-Broadway. But there’s something about this competition in particular that Kiwis just LOVE. Between events, sure everyone’s a bit ambivalent. Some of us moan about the court battles and the politics. But just wait! Just wait. When the America’s Cup rolls around, every New Zealander is suddenly a match-racing, hydro-foiling, sail-trimming expert.”
By the end of the Louis Vuitton cup a few months later, such was demand, about a third of our entire newsroom had relocated to San Francisco. But I’m sure that same pattern applied heading into the Bermuda competition. Call it the lifecycle of the average Kiwi America’s Cup fan.
We love the event. We’ll plan our day around the regattas, and turn out at victory parades for our sailors. Then in the years the follow, we only pay a little attention to the new rules and the squabbling between different syndicates. Maybe we whinge a bit about how it’s a sport for rich guys and who cares about sailing anyway. And it takes us a good few rounds of match-racing to pay any attention to the next competition. Then, though, Team New Zealand starts winning. We’re reminded that their budget is a fraction of the budget some of the other big players enjoy. Jimmy Spithill gets a good couple of digs in our collective, and whattaya know?! Talk about fair-weather sailors. All of a sudden we’re all back onboard the boat.
I’ve been in isolation this week, sitting in my hotel room, watching all the videos of the new Team New Zealand boat, Te Rehutai. The Ocean Spray. It looks spectacular. Several of the boats do, and when those monohulls are up and foiling, my mind boggles over the physics at play.
And sitting here in managed isolation, I’m reminded of just how lucky we are to have an event like this to host, given the state of the World. An event where any and all of us can theoretically go and gather on the North Shore beaches or North Head, and watch those yachts compete. If ever there was to be an advertisement for New Zealand… however many million-people tuning in from shuttered countries, to a jewel in the South Pacific with glorious scenery and no community transmission (touch wood). This is a significant opportunity.
So. Enjoy it. You owe it to everyone around the world counting down to a miserable winter of lockdowns. That’s my challenge. If you’re one of those who blushed just a little when I described the lifecycle of the average America’s Cup fan, and you usually leave it until the last minute to get on the Team New Zealand bandwagon… do it differently this year.
This America’s Cup will not be without scandal. It won’t be without scrutiny. And nor should it. But let’s not be cynical for the sake of being cynical, as I think we sometimes are when it comes to the America’s Cup.
We always say this competition is an opportunity to showcase New Zealand. But on and off the water, never has that sentiment been more true.
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