America's Cup: What went wrong?Share your stories, photos and videos.
OPINION: The 34th America's Cup is one of the great events in New Zealand's sporting history. Some fatuous Americans, turning up even later than they did for World War II, may have posted "USA all the way", but the yanks were little more than spectators. This global event was made in New Zealand and the country should be proud.
Spare me the choke word. The All Blacks choked at the Rugby World Cup in 1999 when they blew a 24-10 lead against France. Emirates Team New Zealand was beaten, at the last breath, by its own nation's phenomenal maritime expertise, the billions of an ocean junkie and the finest team of sailors that money could buy.
Two of the sailors on the winning boat were New Zealanders, Joe Spooner and Jono Macbeth, double the representation that America had. And the guy who ran the whole Oracle campaign was Russell Coutts, one of the great New Zealand sailors of all time.
The simple fact is that Larry Ellison didn't have a hope in Hades of beating New Zealand without the help of New Zealand. When Oracle was plunging up and down in the early races like an overfed dolphin Mr Ellison sent an SOS to this country.
"Man overboard please send lifeline."
The man overboard was John Kostecki, the American tactician, who was discarded for Ben Ainslie, one of the most ruthless sailors on the planet. Ainslie hasn't been popular among many of his competitors over the years, because he hasn't wanted to be. There was always a touch of the early cold-eyed Tiger Woods about the way Ainslie dissed the opponents who he rated highest.
But the lifeline came in the expertise of the technicians from Core Builders Composites in Warkworth and the technological ability to analyse the New Zealand boat. The Oracle boffins drilled deep into what the Kiwis were up to and then asked their own band of New Zealanders to make the necessary modifications.
It is ironic that a Kiwi company, albeit one owned by an American, should help defeat its own country. But that is the way of the world, or at least the world according to John Key. If a government is prepared to sell its power supplies down the river, then it is scarcely likely to let the America's Cup get in the way of its veneration for the global economy.
Whatever your view of that might be as national policy, you cannot but help admire the Kiwi technology and innovation that was such a huge part of both boats. Doubtless Coutts guided Ellison towards New Zealand boat builders in the first place.
There is also no doubt that Team New Zealand was the superior boat at the start of the regatta. That is down to Nick Holroyd and the brilliant designers who came up with the craft and the boat-builders who turned imagination into reality.
It is probably fair to say that Team New Zealand lost partly because they were on the rough end of the main moments of ill fortune, but they were also out sailed. There were too many penalties. They rushed a call and nearly tipped over the boat in race eight. Dean Barker owned they "madea meal of the start" in race 12. The next day Ray Davies and Barker admitted they should have jibed and protected starboard. Mistakes were made. But don't crucify Barker.
The poor man was in tears after yesterday's race. He will crucify himself without anybody else's help. Right now he could do with the country's shoulder to cry on. We knew before the regatta that Barker wasn't quite up there with Spithills and Ainslies and, yes, the Couttses of this world. This America's Cup only confirmed what we knew.
But this America's Cup has come a long, long way and it is New Zealand who has pulled it from the waters of oblivion. Lest we forget, a sailor called Andrew Simpson lost his life in the preparatory stages. The contender races were a one-sided bore and expense had driven out most international participation. One San Fran official said "instead of cheering you can hear the barking of sea lions."
New Zealand rescued this sporting event. Its fans rescued it from America's indifference. Its designers turned a potentially one-sided dream into a thrilling spectacle. And its sailors made a difference to the boats on both sides of the start gate.
It should also be noted that New Zealand came first and second in the Youth America's Cup beating off boats from seven other countries. They should be applauded as should television's Peter Williams for his dispassionate professionalism and easy, informed humour.
New Zealand should be proud. Yesterday I had a dream that Larry Ellison would so admire this little country's vast achievements, that he would bring his defence of the cup to New Zealand. Steve Williams got Tiger to play in the New Zealand Open, why shouldn't Coutts get Ellison to bring the America's Cup to New Zealand.
One thing's for sure. There's no more deserving country.
- © Fairfax NZ News