©ACEA 2017/ Photo Ricardo Pinto
As all sailors would be well aware, the Kiwis have just snatched the America’s Cup (affectionately known as the Auld Mug) back off the Americans. The foiling cats provided a great spectacle, flying over the aqua waters of Bermuda, and the design and innovation bar was again lifted. From a viewer’s perspective, the TV graphics were fantastic, and many a non-sailor told me the races were thoroughly watchable.
Throughout the qualifying series and challengers’ playoffs, the racing was competitive and at times dramatic. Emirates Team New Zealand (ETNZ) capsized in the semi-final and Nathan Outteridge, the Aussie skipper of Artemis Racing, fell overboard, something that is reported to cause quite an impact at the 30 knot plus speeds these boats travel. Admittedly, ETNZ was a little dominate in the finals, but after Oracle's incredible comeback during the last cup, I don’t think anyone relaxed till ETNZ was safely across the line for the last time.
But despite the great spectacle and ETNZ’s great underdog story, it didn’t exactly feel like there were many people avidly following the Cup back here in Australia. Certainly, the Australian sailing media did a great job of their coverage, but beyond keen sailing fans, there weren’t too many people who knew what was going on.
It didn’t help that races kicked off at 3 am Australian time and were only televised on pay TV, but given the substantial number of fantastic Aussie sailors across the boats, I had thought that there would be a little more fuss made. While all the major TV networks did run a respectable package on the day of the final race, I was surprised that ETNZ’s victory didn’t warrant a mention on the morning radio sports headlines.
In contrast, the interest that Kiwis take leaves me feeling pretty envious. Every Kiwi, whether they are a sailor or not, seemed to know exactly what was going on. And while a few commentators have pointed out that ETNZ skipper Glenn Ashby is an Aussie, our lack of protest has, to some extent, allowed one of the world’s top sailors to be labelled a Kiwi by default.
I’m disappointed that the Cup didn’t give sailing a more substantial moment in the spotlight because events like this do a wonderful job of promoting sailing. It appears to be a bit of a chicken and egg situation: you need to be a sailor to take an interest, but spectacles like this are needed to drive interest.
Fingers crossed that there’ll be a competitive Australian challenge next time and that Australia will really pay attention.
Did you enjoy following the Cup? Do you think Australia was a little disengaged?