Sigh. I have a bit of an America's Cup hangover.
I think we all went into Race 6 with the thought that maybe Ben Ainslie could do something for Team Oracle. Ainslie was the first Brit to sail in an AC final since 1964, so there was a "golden boy" opportunity. There was hope, at least.
And for a few minutes there, that hope seemed legit. Oracle dominated on the start and managed to hold their position to the first mark. They did well on the run and rounded the bottom mark and almost seemed to be extending their lead. Until the beat. The Kiwis saw their opportunity and took it. And then they took it again. And again. At one point, cameras picked up on Dean Barker saying very casually, "Yeah, we can tack here. Or not. It doesn't matter." Because it really didn't. Fifty meters became 300 meters, and the Kiwis were basically already drunk on champagne by the time the Americans crossed the finish line.
I had to scratch my head at the "why." Why we couldn't tack the boat. Why we couldn't seem to figure out how much current would affect the boat. Why we couldn't sail upwind. If you're like me, you have strong memories of skipping work in 2010 and watching Jimmy Spithill absolutely destroy Alighini in what was one of the most exciting days in sailing history. We didn't know what to think about this boat, we didn't know what the future held. It was, in the words of one of my sailing friends, "like watching porn for the first time."
What happened, Jimmy? There were legions of Oracle fans watching that race, thinking to themselves "All we need is for ETNZ to capsize, then we might have a chance." Even Tucker Thompson pointed that out. How is this possible that America's Cup racing has come down to hoping the other team suffers technical failures?
Later last night, I tuned in to the Patriots/Jets game. If you're a Pats fan, this is one game that you can usually count on to be full-on comic relief for the season. I mean, Rex Ryan alone is enough to boost confidence. But the game was as brutal as they come: it was literally an exhibition in punting, and we weren't even that good at it. By the half time, hand to gawd, I turned off the radio and started reading a self help book.
It's a good reminder that sometimes your team sucks. Sometimes you can't throw the ball, or catch the ball (or kick the ball, Gostkowski). Sometimes you just can't tack the damn boat, or sail upwind. And in those moments you have to appreciate the under dogs. They might be rookie quarterbacks, they might have old guys and ex-rowers on the boat, but they've been practicing.
The America's Cup is still about sailing, no matter what the detractors say. It's still a thrilling moment we should all be proud of, and as American sailors we should be proud of the technological advances we're putting forward, and the guys who are risking their lives by being out there. If Oracle loses the next two races, making it a 9-0 series, well, we'll have to live with that. You know what? There's always AC35. And I swear on my life, we'll have learned how to sail the boat by then.