The America’s Cup yachting race is one of those events in world sports, which generates excitement, anxiety, angst, elation and depression. It is also one of those sports that no one actually understands!
So I decided to sit down – well it was about 6am so make that lie down – and watch one of the races between Team New Zealand and Team USA taking place in the San Francisco bay.
You see - this is how it works. They start off with a countdown which is somewhere around 5 minutes. A white line then appears in the sea like magic! It must have taken them ages painting it, especially with the sea moving and all… Unlike a running race where you shout ready, set go – the America’s Cup is more like ready, set, slow! They are not actually stationary prior to the race starting – they are in constant motion circling around each other and making grinding noises. Anyway, the race starts – and they’re off! I know this because the white line finally washes away.
At this stage, the commentators are particularly excited – not sure why yet. Oh right, there was a gybe or is it a tack? Thankfully, there are also lots of camera angles and computer screens showing computer generated imagery of exactly who is winning, because to tell you the truth, it kind of all looks the same on tv!
The commentators then start going crazy, because apparently, Team New Zealand did a starboard tack, which I think means something on the right. A couple of questions here like - what the hell is a tack? And what the hell is starboard? I mean – where am I – the Starship Enterprise? Why can’t they say left or right like regular people?
The commentators are now delirious as they start shouting something about an ebb flow coming in from the warm southerly current. Yes, I also don’t know what that means. They almost pass out now, because apparently Team USA have a code zero! A what - ? The only code zero I’m aware of is the one that you have right after having a big Indian dinner, and you’re running down the hallway towards the toilet yelling “Code Zero! Code Zero!”
Suddenly, the race has taken a dramatic turn – or tack! Team New Zealand are way ahead and heading for a win, when suddenly the match referee who is sitting in another boat somewhere fishing calls for the race to be abandoned – as 40 minutes have passed. Apparently under the rules the race can only be 40 minutes, so as not to delay proceeding. So instead of letting the team win, they now have to extend the day by another hour instead of another 5 minutes. Perhaps on bizarro world that might make sense, but here in the real world where we tack and gybe, it doesn’t!
So the race comes to a sudden end where there was clearly no winner – unless you include the team that was about one kilometre ahead. Everyone is now standing around and talking excitedly about the day’s events.
It’s always amusing watching people talk about things about which they have no idea. People are kind of nodding knowingly, arms folded and all, giving an appropriate grunt when needed and saying things like, “Yup, that’s what I was thinking.” It’s like when your car breaks down and you stare into the engine, with the bonnet up, not knowing what the hell you’re staring at! But being manly and all, you don’t actually want to admit that and end up making inane comments like, “Yeah, engine spin cycle definitely sounds a bit off”
Anyway, so the race continues with Race number 417 just having been completed with so many questions remaining. Will there be enough hot air in the room for the next race to start? Will the wind direction change? And will Nicholas Cage get off Alcatraz in time before it explodes?
The America’s Cup – it’s like an old relative from a faraway country. We don’t really understand her, but we love her anyway.