GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

Opinion

September 30, 2013

Fishtown Local: Cup drama proves a sailor's delight

OK, it’s finally over and settled:

Yes, the America’s Cup was a long, strange trip. But what an event.

It began with all the enthusiasm for sailors as a colonoscopy.

The general outlook by racers was that Larry Ellison, Oracle’s chief exec, had basically connived and contrived his way into getting the cup in the first place with a legal dipsy-doodle that had a last minute, mini-series (2 outta 3) in Spain four years ago that allowed him to win it through the back door. He then declared a new era and selected a racing technology that he was already years ahead of everyone else in perfecting.

His dream was that San Francisco would serve as the perfect backdrop for the races with its adjacent location to the windiest, flattest, most spectacular conditions in the most advanced tech-boats that money could invent. But it was so expensive ($100 million per team), that it whittled the original 15 teams registered down to only three challengers.

It was also widely believed Oracle would take the Cup in a cakewalk, but it didn’t turn out that way. The New Zealanders took the task very seriously and began training and spending immediately. They assembled a team the equal of the USA’s, matching world champ skipper Dean Barker, a Kiwi, against Oracle’s Jimmy Spithill, also a world champ, an Aussie.

Both were surrounded by all-stars on their crews. They were basically inventing their sport as they went along. But the Kiwis were the first to figure out hydrofoiling, the art of getting the boats — called AC72s — up on slim metal foils and turning the cats into giant ice boats, flying above the water at ridiculous speeds.

They became just plain rocket boats, with two speed modes: out-of-control fast and completely out-of-control fast. The challengers were the first to figure out great foiling technique as early as a year ago and it showed in the early going.

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