Friday, March 30, 2007

Keeping it not quite real

This America's Cup blog is barely launched, but I've just spent a day chasing Transpac issues (dear to my heart), and there was not much action in Valencia. Lots of AC teams had a day off as they tried to pace themselves toward what will surely be a silly day on Sunday--the skirts come off, and lots of people will be running around making profound statements about the shape of the boats, whether they know anything or not--with four days of Act 13 fleet racing to kick off on Tuesday.

We're not even down to the serious racing, but the times are serious. Points from Act 13 might eventually determine the difference between 8th and 9th in the Challenger standings, but they won't determine the Challenger. Meanwhile, the Big Two from the ranks of 11 challengers, plus the Defender, Alinghi, are weighing how much of their performance profile to hang out in public in the fleet races, and how to best gauge what the competition is hanging out vs. holding back for the Louis Vuitton Cup eliminations that begin on April 16.

The Big Two? In order of finish after 12 Acts, that would be Emirates Team New Zealand and BMW Oracle. But I can't define an arbitrary Big Two without having somebody ask, what about Luna Rossa, the heir to 2000 challenger, Prada? Aren't they automatically part of a Big Three?

Good question, but I'm rejecting the "automatically" part of it. Nothing I know tells me that Luna Rossa has a better chance than other boats, or that my own Big Two couldn’t possibly play out otherwise, no matter how unlikely that is. We've yet to see the ponies hit the track.

Chasing supposed Transpac conspiracies wore me out today (see Labyrinthine, Byzantine if you don't believe me. Then I received this warm letter from a sailor in Massachusetts, in response to a guest editorial that I wrote at the invitation of the Scuttlebutt newsletter. Scuttlebutt is playing an anniversaries theme (white space is the enemy, baby, I can dig it), and this is the 20th anniversary of Dennis Conner's comeback victory at the America's Cup in Australia. It is also the 15th anniversary of the release of the movie, WIND, inspired by that comeback.
You can read my commentary on the experience of being a consultant and one of the writers at WIND. I may have neglected in that writing to make explicitly clear that, for me, it was a great experience. And most people came away feeling the same way. The job, as defined by our director, Carroll Ballard, was to make, not a documentary, but "a dream of the America's Cup."

I was blessed to be a writing partner with Roger Vaughan, whose work I had admired (still do) for ages. There were high points that I wouldn't trade for anything, and then there's a note like this, from Beverly Blagden of Beverly, Massachusetts. Obviously, they like her so much they named the town after her, so she speaks with authority.

I give you Beverly Blagden:

"I read with interest your Scuttlebutt editorial on the making of WIND, of which I own not one but two copies, having nothing to do with the fact that there was a woman in the pivotal role (though watching her kicking out a 200-pound headsail on a diminutive Singer, that I couldn’t have made curtains with, gave me goosebumps) or the fact that it documents for all time Jennifer Grey’s preferable nose.

"In my opinion, WIND has done more for sailors and sailing than any other piece of media. Sailing is inherently misunderstood, as is clearly evident when, after a weekend of one design sailing, I return to work Monday morning with bruises all over my arms and legs and the only sympathy I receive is a snooty “Oh, did you hurt yourself cutting up a lime for your gin and tonic”? Haul out a copy of WIND, fast forward to the boats slamming through the big waves, casually mention that it’s your regular job to be the guy that gets hauled up the mast and that you usually end up returning to the deck upside down. Most of my friends and acquaintances have no idea what sailing is all about, but after a few showings of WIND they get it. No more lime comments.

"My son has been teaching junior sailors for years and wouldn’t leave the house on a rainy day without his copy of WIND. After indoor knot tying and safety reviewing and other low-energy activities, the kids can’t get enough of this movie, especially the I-14 scenes, which he has to replay again and again. One summer it rained and blew for a week straight, and he said that he played this movie about ten times in a row for the same kids and they still wanted to see it again.


That makes me feel good, on behalf of the many people who busted their guts to make the movie happen. What's next? That was the 20th century, and we're building the next world aren't we?

— Kimball