6 Mar, 2021
On the day that the 36th America's Cup should have begun...
Had it not been for the recent COVID restrictions, today would have been the first day of the 36th America’s Cup and despite some dire forecasts earlier in the week that suggested that Armageddon was on its way, based on what actually happened the opening day could have been a cracker. But it wasn’t just COVID that threatened to throw a spanner in the works. The earthquakes 24 hours earlier caused a fair bit of stress throughout the country as local coastal communities were evacuated to higher ground. Even in Auckland we were told to to move away from the waterfront areas as the Tsunami alerts went out. Given that all the bars and cafes were closed that wasn’t that hard to do. The local Ponsonby supermarket is the main meeting place during lockdown and that’s on a hill so we were fine. So while we might not have had any racing, there has been plenty going on down here. But now that the Tsunami risk has subsided and Jacindarella has said that we will drop back to lockdown level 2 (in Auckland, level 1 in the rest of the country), from 0600 Sunday the focus has shifted back from toilet roll shortages to the 36th America’s Cup. With a northerly breeze in the mid to high teens the conditions today would have been an interesting opener. It’s really hard to know who would have benefitted most. The most popular view is that the Kiwis would have fared better in these stronger breezes, but you’ll be hard pressed to find anybody, including those in or close to the teams that will say this with any confidence. From a spectator’s point of view, it would have simply been wet as several hefty rain showers swept across the region in the afternoon. But as we know, we didn’t get racing and we won’t until Wednesday when the big gig kicks off. To be honest, we’re going a little stir crazy down here. The pressure and anticipation is building and we’ve had a couple of weeks to speculate on what might lie in store. We’ve gone through what feels like every aspect of each team’s strengths and weaknesses. We’ve debated at length as to what each of them has been up to in their training. We’ve argued about whether the Kiwis’ apparent adoption of the dual helmsman role that we’ve seen them practice this week in the pre-starts will really work for them or whether it will be a distraction. We’ve discussed the re-emergence of the code zero aboard Emirates Team New Zealand and argued about whether this is a real development or simply a tactic to spook the Italians. We’ve questioned why Luna Rossa boss Max Sirena chose to blow the gaff on what goes on behind those tightly closed doors at their base and why he chose to show their foils, the under deck boom and the sail loft. Was he playing games too? We’ve gone back over previous results and performances to see if there’s anything we’ve missed that will give us a better idea as to who has got the upper hand and what the score sheet might look like. But now we’re just going round in circles. We need to go racing. I know that because this evening we had a socially distanced 1 hour argument over dinner about whether the Sky Tower is pretty or not. It’s a complete no brainer for me, it’s a terrific piece of architecture and an impressive achievement for a country that has the population of Ireland…’nuff said. So, looking ahead, tomorrow (Sunday) looks to be a breezy affair that would have been at the top end of the wind range, possibly beyond. But then casting further forwards to Wednesday, at present the conditions are at the other end of the scale at around 5-6knots. The bottom line is it’s a roller coaster ride down here and while I was out for my couple of hours socially distanced exercise where I concentrated on hand and wrist muscle groups by twisting my motorbike throttle as I wound my may through the Waitakere Ranges (stunning) it occurred to me that every Cup I’ve been to has been like this as we approach the big day. You spend so long working up to the start that you don’t notice the pressure building, but build it does. The fact is that we all want to go racing, if only to stop the debate about the Sky Tower and to shift the meeting point from the fruit and vegetable aisle to the cafes in the Viaduct Basin.