Glorious Defeat

General, Reckons

I don’t know about you, but I’ve been staying up to watch the yachting… Not all of them, I admit, but perhaps 5 of the 7.

During the LV races, I thought we weren’t even going to get through. The quality of the opposition just seemed so high (it might be taking national pride a little too far to say I think that having at least some NZ crew on virtually all of the boats has something to do with this). So my expectations were low.

TeamNZ utterly creamed the opposition and got through the finals 5-0. This was nice – I love it when NZ teams win, even in sports I generally have no interest in, it makes me feel good to know that NZers are out there on the world stage and doing good – and so of course my interest grew.

Still, everyone was talking about how the Alinghi boat was a rocket ship, and would sail rings around any challenger, so still I didn’t expect much, we are after all so used to seeing the America’s Cup race going down 5-0.

And then, before we really knew what was happening, TeamNZ are sitting in the lead at 2-1. Having watched race 4, there is no question in my mind that they were going to win – they were sailing their asses off when that bloody sail exploded. If you were watching you’ll know what I’m talking about when I mention the incredible frustration of watching the crew struggle beneath that giant flapping tatter of sail. And it speaks a lot to the teams drive that even after such a disaster, they still managed to catch up to Alinghi – yet more evidence, to me at least, that if that sail hadn’t blown, it was going to be a walkover, and TeamNZ would have been up at 3-1.

But, obviously, that didn’t happen, and from there on our Alinghi seemed to catch the breaks. (No doubt they raced well, but I honestly believe that luck was a major factor in dictating who took most of those wins. The crews and the boats were equally great.)

If you weren’t watching, perhaps if you were only seeing the highlights, or hearing the results in the morning, you won’t understand just how incredible the sailing was. The score line simply doesn’t reflect the incredible closeness of the competition.

Last nights race was a fabulous example of this, once again, TeamNZ would have utterly creamed Alinghi but for a simple disaster, Brad Butterworth played a strategic game that forced TeamNZ into a penalty situation, and sailed away – they were a full 100m ahead at one point, going into the final leg – and yet, TeamNZ sailed past them, made up enough ground that they got to the finish line in time to make their penalty turn, and had finished that and were underway again, moving off from a dead stop, just covering that last meter, when Alinghi finally caught up crossed a second ahead.

It was incredible.

If our team has to lose, I’m glad that it’s like that. (Though without the penalty, thanks. It might have been smart play, but it was poor sportsmanship.)

I have mixed feelings that it’s all over with. Had our boys managed to win, I just don’t think I could have handled watching any more races like the ones we already had. I need a few years rest before I can take any more of that.

If you think it was boring you weren’t watching.

(Or you’re a cretin.)