Team New Zealand spared from public backlash
OPINION: Congratulations Dean Barker, Grant Dalton and Team New Zealand.
You've been on the wrong end of the biggest comeback in sports history and largely escaped the wrath of the usually harsh New Zealand sporting public and media.
Perhaps it is because you have conducted yourselves with dignity, humility and courtesy, winning many friends in the public and media despite losing what at one stage appeared to be the unloseable.
Or perhaps it is because we are fairweather sailing fans; happy to jump on board when things are going well but more than happy to jump ship if they're not.
Nonetheless, some hard questions probably need to be asked, given that we helped fund the campaign.
Yes, Oracle ultimately had the quicker boat, but what has been overlooked in the washup is that you made several mistakes on the water. Not in the deciding race, but in the preceding days, and they were costly. Why? You were owned in the start box by that Aussie pitbull Jimmy Spithill more often than not. Why?
We are told that Oracle's win is all down to the dosh. They had the money, so they had the technological advantage, and there was nothing you could do. But that doesn't explain poor starts, poor sail choice or poor decision-making, does it?
How All Blacks teams of yesteryear would have loved such a forgiving attitude.
Yes, Oracle's boat was quicker. But you had chances to wrap this thing up and failed to take them. Unfortunately, you were outsailed, as well as outgunned by Larry Ellison's billions.
Dean Barker's career may well be defined by this America's Cup loss. This was his chance to right the wrongs of previous campaigns but he couldn't get his team across the line.
Here's a stat that you probably haven't heard: Barker has lost 21 of 32 America's Cup races he's been at the helm for since 2000.
We're a nation of extremes when it comes to sport and the America's Cup fallout has been no different.
Reading some of the comments on the Stuff website, either Oracle cheated and Team New Zealand were robbed of a brave victory, or Team New Zealand choked to death and shouldn't be allowed to return home. There's no middle ground.
Here are some facts: Team New Zealand made some mistakes on the race course during the past week and might have won the cup had they sailed better. We will never know.
Oracle did not make the same mistakes. They were better resourced. They made vast improvements on and off the water, and had an incredibly well-oiled crew.
Where's all the vitriol toward the Oracle-owned but Warkworth-based company behind the success of Larry Ellison's Team Oracle USA? New Zealanders rounded on Sir Russell Coutts after he left Team New Zealand and more than a decade on some still consider him a traitor. Of course he is not, and neither are the good folk up north at Core Builders Composites.
Perhaps Kiwi sporting fans have matured.
Here's a thought, albeit a provocative one. Sir Russell Coutts for sportsman of the year? According to Ellison, the Kiwi sailing legend engineered the Oracle turnaround, the greatest sporting comeback in history. And what about those Kiwis at Core Builders Composites for team of the year ... what a stunning job they did in a sport where the builders and engineers are as crucial if not more than the sailors.
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