Brent Humphreys has done what most Kiwis wanted to do this week - punch Jimmy Spithill.
The pair did not come to blows on the streets of San Francisco, however. Humphreys, a boxing coach from New Plymouth, has been the physical trainer for Oracle Team USA for four years.
Humphreys had been working as a boxing coach in Auckland when he was approached to join the team during the America's Cup regatta in Valencia, and he jumped at the opportunity to travel and get paid.
He said yesterday Spithill could have had a career in the ring.
"He's a freak of nature and, to be honest, he could probably box professionally."
Humphreys said Spithill's dogged determination was the driving force behind the team's dramatic comeback from 8-1 down in the first-to-nine series.
"A week ago we were staring down the barrel. The thing that freaks me out the most is Spithill never, ever wavered in his belief that we could come back," he said.
"He's a good leader and you can't help but get on the wagon when your leader has that much belief."
Humphreys said his regular sparring sessions and workouts with the crew had helped give them the mental toughness to fight back against all the odds.
"Sailing and boxing are very similar - when you come to the later rounds or the later stages in a race you need to be able to make decisions under that fatigue.
"It's [boxing] a stressful game, they work hard and it's a good release as much as anything. It's something that they actually look forward to in the morning, as opposed to jumping on a treadmill or pushing weights."
It was a double celebration for Humphreys, who turned 35 on the day Oracle won the series, and he says retaining the Auld Mug was the best present ever.
"Easily that thing has got to be number one, top of the list."
He described the celebrations as epic. "We had a good night, that's for sure, and it's still going."
Humphreys had no reservations about helping Oracle win against his home country.
"I've spent four years with these guys and they're like family. Not once was there any waver, it's my team, it's my family and I certainly wanted us to win from the start."
Humphreys didn't know what the future held, but said he'd always remain involved with Oracle.
"The team is so tight you really do live it for three years, so it's going to be strange to be out of it, it'll take a while to adjust to normal life again."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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