Duncan Johnstone: Bowing to TV a nonsense

DUNCAN JOHNSTONE IN SAN FRANCISCO
Last updated 05:00 23/09/2013

Shed 10 fans left gutted

'We're staying until we win!'

34th America's Cup
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Oracle CEO Larry Ellison holds the America's Cup trophy aloft.
Team NZ fans watch America's Cup
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A fan at Auckland's Shed 10 battles to watch the final America's Cup race.
America's Cup cartoons
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America's Cup cartoons courtesy of Mark O'Brien of monstacartoons.com

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OPINION: This America's Cup is reality television gone mad.

This is the television remote controlling the yachting more than the regatta director.

This is the vision that Larry Ellison and Sir Russell Coutts promised would transfix us all.

They were right on one count - most viewers have been fascinated.

But many have also become frustrated. There's a risk that people who have been turned on by it are now switching off.

Loyalty has its limits, even when passion runs as deep as it has been during the past fortnight with Team New Zealand's scintillating success and struggles.

The inflexibility of the racing schedule is at the root of the problem. It's a nonsense. But that's it's timeslot on the small screen.

The America's Cup is bowing to a television audience in the United States that is comparatively nonexistent when viewed alongside the major sports that dominate the screens at this time of the year, primarily baseball and NFL.

Yet the rest of the sailing world suffers.

The knock-on effect is that in a country like New Zealand where yachting is appreciated, the real fans are watching races halted after they've started and others not getting under way because of the time restraints that come with Ellison's revolution.

The regatta organisers have often put the inability to shift schedules in the camp of the unco-operative teams and regatta agreements that were made more than a year ago.

There's an element of truth to that. But there's also the fact that the teams are operating within the parameters put in front of them built around a tight television schedule.

It seems a nonsense that, in a city notorious for its afternoon winds, the schedule can't be brought forward an hour.

It seems just as incredible that, when winds are light or shifting around, racing can't be held off till later in the day.

The television goal of the America's Cup has been to take these boats and crews and broadcast them inside out with camera angles and graphics never before seen.

That has been accomplished - when the racing has been on.

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Everyone has marvelled at feeling almost like they were one of the crew and at having yachting terminology related to them in plain data rather than a foreign language.

But to simply provide it for a strict window of opportunity is like giving candy to a child and then taking it away.

In a city made for sailing, like San Francisco, that's been happening far too much.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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