America’s Cup: One Affordable Trickle Down

For non-sailors, our sport is a rich person’s game personified by the America’s Cup: a white-capped playground of ego, selfish billionaires, and the worst of American exceptionalism. 

While sailors know there’s a wide range of budgets in our sport, we often share this jaded view of the Auld Mug. We complain about how expensive it is, how much ego is involved, whether any of the technological advances will really find a useful home in mainstream sailing. But last Sunday, we saw something that we can apply to our own racing regardless of budget: international sportsmanship.

If you haven’t already seen it, here’s the boat-breaking capsize of American Magic, a heart-stopping example of comeback transformed to crisis. Thanks to a squall that hit just as they rounded their last mark of the weekend, the team went from a solid lead to a holed boat—a disaster that will keep them from competing in next weekend’s round robin.

In the hours that followed, everyone—every America’s Cup team, as well as all the local authorities—rallied together. First they kept the boat from sinking. Next, they towed it—backwards, at a crawl—home to the team base. (Isn’t it amazing what people can accomplish when they work together?)

When the boat finally lifted out of the water shortly before midnight local time, the gaping hole in the hull was visible to all. It was a graphic reminder of how thin the safety margins are on these bleeding edge craft when, as Terry Hutchinson would put it, something goes pear-shaped.

Holes in boats can be repaired. Electronics will be replaced. American Magic has both the resources and the leadership to come back stronger from this disaster. And yes, that’s thanks to ego and billionaires—as well as to Auckland’s fantastic boatbuilding expertise. 

But the image that will live on in my own mind is from the cleanup: Peter Burling (skipper of defending Emirates Team New Zealand), standing on the bow of their chase boat, hauling American Magic’s sail out of the water. Dozens of other competitors helped too, of course; Burling (who’s won two Olympic medals as well as the 2017 America’s Cup) was just the most visible. Sportsmanship, personified. 

 So the next time we’re all complaining about the Auld Mug, let’s also remember that this pinnacle of our sport creates heroes. We often equate heroism with winning—medals, trophies, against all odds. All of which might require ego, selfishness, and maybe a few extra dollars. 

But when we see our heroes simply reaching out a helping hand to a competitor in need, it inspires us to do the same. And even if we don’t have any commas at all in our own race budgets, that’s trickle-down we can count on.

10 Replies to “America’s Cup: One Affordable Trickle Down”

  1. Excellent post, and great to remind us of what really matters. As you said Peter was just one of the large group that helped save Patriot. And Terry was right there up front to thank them for helping save their AC75.

    Now I hope American Magic can be back on the race course to show the speed, and tactics they had in the last race. Lets have tight racing to the last day of Prada Cup, and the same for AC 2021.

    But don’t forget the fleet of heroes that are sailing around the world, non stop, unassisted, in the Vendee Globe Race. A race were heroes are made every day! More people have been in space then have completed the Vendee Globe.

  2. A well-timed piece – along with Amanda Gorman’s poem at this week’s inauguration. Both inspire me to remember what is important and how TOGETHER is the key word. The really cool part about the New Zealand story is that the reactions were knee-jerk and instant – like the ending of the the 60’s comedy / parady movie “The Russians are Coming, the Russians are Coming” (if you haven’t seen it, see it) – which shows the true inner intentions and interests of all, despite the external fronts we all put up.

    1. Art, thanks for connecting the dots to Amanda Gorman’s incredible performance. I wrote this post on Tuesday so didn’t think about that connection until this morning… it’s been quite a week! Yes I have seen The Russians Are Coming” but need to rewatch it. I suspect it has aged well.

  3. “…when we see our heroes simply reaching out a helping hand to a competitor in need, it inspires us to do the same.” This. I love this post, Carol. Thank you for shining a light on our collective humanity, which is so much more important than, really, anything else.

  4. We’ll put Carol, I’d not heard of the AC75 mishap, but while reading your account, Graham’s poem/presentation came to mind before seeing the earlier comments. As to what i thought was filmed on the Vineyard or Nantucket, in checking it out (as sadly finding it was filmed in CA) I found the “Russians are Coming” release date was May 25, 1966, Wasn’t someone’s birthday around then?

    1. Ed, so disappointed to hear The Russians are Coming was not filmed on Nantucket! I’d always assumed that to be the case. As for birthdays, I was almost 2 when that was released… about ready to start rowing your old dinghy around. 🙂

  5. I agree totally that the help all the other teams extended to American Magic is the very best of what sailing can be.

    “We’ll go after you on the race course, but count on us to be there if you need help.”

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