Did we Give the 35th America’s Cup the Attention it Deserves?

Jessica Watson
Posted June 29 2017

©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?

31 people found this helpful. Do you?Thank Jessica Watson

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Steve
Posted June 30 2017
Jessica I was appalled that there was little if any mainstream coverage of this years Amazing AC. It was an outstanding omission givenas you have said, that there were so many outstanding Australian's involved. I was only able to keep up by catching other Youtube news repots as even the Americas Cup You tube channel did not post much of the actual racing.
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Mark Watland
Posted June 30 2017
There also seemed to be less interest in the US than in past years even though the TV coverage was at a good time of day for viewing. There didn’t seem to be much mention of it on the evening news to help pique interest. It makes me wonder if it was because the venue was a less populated and more isolated area than other years. When it’s held in places like San Diego, Auckland, San Francisco or Valencia, there’s just naturally more exposure. I have a feeling that interest in the America’s Cup will bounce back next year when it will be held in Auckland again.
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Damian Christie
Posted June 30 2017
Unfortunately Jessica, Australia and Australians have been disenagaged from the America's Cup for the last two decades. In turn, it hasn't helped that we've lost our best sailors to the likes of Oracle, Artemis and Team New Zealand precisely because we have not had a representative challenger since the early 2000s (which was skippered by a young, green James Spithill). When the opportunities aren't here, professional sailors will go elsewhere.

It's interesting that you mention our lack of protest regarding Glenn Ashby's nationality. I wish we had questioned years ago how and why some of our best sailors - eg two-time Cup winner James Spithill and Olympic gold medallists Tom Slingsby and Nathan Outteridge - were plying their trade for Oracle and other teams, especially when Oracle should have had access to plenty of American talent to defend the Cup - but alas it just seems to me Australians don't care. Yet if it were another sport and members of the Australian cricket team defected to play for England against the home team in the Ashes this summer, there would be cries of bloody murder from the media and the pundits.

Hopefully the Kiwis will introduce a much stricter nationality rule that will deter the richer teams (Oracle, Artemis, Luna Rossa, former Cup holder Alinghi) from continuing to raid Australia's sailing coffers and force them to start developing their own homegrown talent. Australia has lost an entire generation of the most talented sailors and yacht designers to foreign contenders for the Cup because no one in this country has been prepared to back a Cup challenger.

It's unlikely the likes of Spithill, Ashby, Slingsby, Outteridge and the other sailors spread across the six teams this time will necessarily all get behind an Australian challenger for the next America's Cup defence in Auckland. However, for the sake of Australia's current and next generation of sailors, Australia must send a challenger to Auckland and can no longer tolerate the raid on our sailing stocks. It has to stop - and the new Kiwi defender is our best hope for that! We should no longer welcome the barbarians at our sailing gate!

There has been enough talented Australian sailors and designers in the last couple of Cup cycles to have formed one of the most powerful Australian challengers in Cup history. Imagine how much more formidable such a team would be if it were led by John Bertrand - the Australian equivalent of New Zealand's Grant Dalton or the late Sir Peter Blake.

It's time for Australia to return to the fray. We didn't leverage off the opportunities that were afforded us when the Kiwis last held the Cup in the early 2000s. We cannot afford to let that rare opportunity slip again now that the Kiwis have reclaimed the Cup!

In fact, the Kiwis should be admired for their achievements in the last 22 years. They were inspired to enter the Cup game thanks to Australia II's 1983 triumph. They have well and truly surpassed us since we lost the Cup in 1987 - now having won it three times, including winning, defending, losing and recapturing the trophy! If ever there's a role model/benchmark for a potential "Team Australia", it's Team New Zealand!

In 1983, the chant was "Stand up Australia!" In 2017, the catch cry should be "Wake up Australia!"
9 people found this helpful. Do you?Thank Damian Christie
Rusty Nelson
Posted July 3 2017
Here is Southern California it didn't even make the evening news. People seem to have lost interest in the event. The Trump 'event' captures most of the news day after day. We just lost the cup and we seem to be losing our whole country also.
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Richard Burgess
Posted June 30 2017
I'm still hungover from the 83' victory, not sure I could cope with another
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Jessica Watson
Posted July 4 2017
Thanks for all the great perspectives! It's interesting to hear what the interest was like around the world. I certainly hope Australia 'wakes up' and pulls together a good campaign this time!
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Captain Crayfish
Posted June 30 2017
I think that it was only broadcast on pay TV made a big difference. It was indeed a spectacle and yes the broadcast time was awkward but when Bondy took the Cup off the yanks the first time it was 04:30am in WA and i still managed "to be there".

The spectacle with laylines, start bozxes, statistics etc on screen make it very exciting and turn even the most unknowledgeable into an "expert"

Hopefully Aussie will take part in the 37th - a good many sailors on other nations boats were Aussie so the talent is definitely there. Onya ETNZ!!!!
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Nigel Chesterfield-evans
Posted June 30 2017
Jess, you raise a good point. To a non - sailor they don't get why we get excited about " slow moving white triangles on the horizon "..... for all the criticism of the elitist format I love it. The advances in technology are rapidly filtering down to the fittings I buy , my ropes are better , my software is better. The fact that sailing is not mainstream is due to us as a sailing community- we can't blame everyone else. Consider a parallel with horse racing and trots ( there are less active participants) but more followers ... the AC is a spectacle we as a sport need .... and in its current format .... stupendous viewing .... but next time it will be on telly when the east coast gets home from work! Well done Kiwis
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gshinners64
Posted July 23 2017
I thought it was awesome. I just want one. Rockingham to Rotto in 15 mins wet and scared.
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