Thursday, June 21, 2007

The Festival of Hindsight

So we're nine races max, five races minimum, from the point at which the events about to unfold will be possessed of an apparent inevitability—having thus been established as fact—and already I can feel the pulse of the Festival of Hindsight. On Friday, Alinghi will reveal the defending helmsman—

. . . drumroll, please . . . no, no, a really LOUD drumroll . . . I'm sorry, I can't hear you . . . oh well . . .

—for America's Cup 32. And should Alinghi lose in the absence of Russell Coutts, what a hopping festival it will be. Lions and tigers and bears, oh my.

Of course, we well know, the script says that Alinghi wins, whether steered by Ed Baird or Peter Holmberg. But, as New Zealand team boss Grant Dalton put it to New Zealand Herald reporter Julie Ash a month ago, when she seemed to take it for granted that BMW Oracle would win through to the challenger finals: "Where's the evidence?"

I bumped into Areva's Dawn Riley yesterday afternoon, and after working our way through certain predictable this's and that's, we found it easy to agree that everybody's talkin' and nobody knows nothin'.

Thus, streetwise notions aside, my heart will be in my throat when SUI 100 and NZL 92 answer the guns on Saturday.


Horns, actually, not guns.

Such a ringing phrase from olden times, to "answer the guns." There's not much drama in saying that SUI 100 and NZL 92 will "answer the horns."

And yes, it will be SUI 100, the newer boat in the Alinghi stable. That was announced on Wednesday, to no great surprise.

But, whatever calls SUI 100 and NZL 92 to the moment, that moment will form part of the collective story of Those Who Sail. Nothing else comes close to Race 1 of an America's Cup match.

Go figure: The debunking of the America's Cup is as fundamental and predictable as the hyping of the America's Cup. Happens every time around. And the debunkers aren't wrong, on their own terms. But they are outside, looking in, to this seething, sordid, marvelous, compelling, and, ultimately, grand confection of ego, innovation, and achievement. Where else can a fat cat pay this much money for an opportunity to pratfall on a grand scale? Or enter the pages of an enduring history? Thomas Lipton (Sir Thomas) challenged five times and lost five times, and sold a lot of Lipton's Tea, and became a beloved figure in the Americas for trying and trying and left behind an epitaph:

"I canna' win."

With only the rare exception, everyone comes to this through what was first a simple fascination with wind and water and a little boat.

And that is something that, perhaps, bears repeating.

With only the rare exception, everyone comes to this through what was first a simple fascination with wind and water and a little boat.

That is why, no matter how outrageous the details of an America's Cup match might be, it is still connected right down the spine to (for example) a kid dreaming about someday getting to sail a real Opti.

Meanwhile, yes, I know there's been a great buzz lately about detachable stays and where they're to abide during racing. If you're a junkie, you've already read about it upside down and sideways on other web sites and blogs. If you're not a junkie, babe, you don't need to know. Here's a firm prediction. I'm really going out on a limb with this one, folks: The disposition of stays will not determine the outcome of America's Cup 32.

Whew. Gutsy call, eh?

Unless, perhaps, the "stays" really do have an additional purpose upwind, which actually does take us out on a limb. If you haven't been reading BOB, you're late to the party, and it's time to start. BOB is the BMW Oracle blog, written by Tom Ehman, founding chairman of the Challenge Committee, and it's been a great blog from the beginning. But lately, given Tom's insider view, it's been a must. Tom will bring you up to speed on what can be known, from this side of the fence, about Alinghi's backstays.

Pivoting to our question of the day. Why does Windows XP spell-check not accept the word "blog?" Are they, like, so totally 20th Century?

Dude! —Kimball