Lack of expertise fails to detract from America’s Cup experience

jpns-12-08-17 retro 2017

Royals - The Ducke of Edinburgh sailing off Cowes in his chartered yacht Yeomann XXII

THIS WEEK IN 1979: Racing royals set sail in the Solent

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Aah, you can always rely on the good old British summer to put a spanner in the works.

To those of us less-experienced in the intricate details of sailing at the very highest level, we might have thought that it’s a sport that works better when it’s windy.

Apparently not.

Surely those things that look like spaceships (AC45s) would go faster, they would sit higher on their foils (those stilt things that stick out of the bottom of the boats) and the racing would be a pure test of seamanship (things would get a bit more tasty).

Sadly, you didn’t need to be a sailing expert to understand what had happened.

The conditions were deemed too dangerous for the Super Sunday programme with 30mph gusts.

So we all had to make do with the memories of an enjoyable Big Saturday.

Sunday, meanwhile, turned into an unscheduled roast dinner, an impromptu trip to the Blue Reef Aquarium or a bit of shopping at Gunwharf Quays.

Failing that, a couple of pints at the local pub were always on offer.

Of course, the safety of the crews and the public are always paramount.

As spectacular as it might have been to see sailors hanging on for dear life or attempting to rule some pretty hefty waves, those healthy and safety spoilsports decided otherwise.

Ok, they probably didn’t have a choice this time.

It’s hard to get away from the fact that we had the wind taken from our sails to see the final day of the event abandoned without a tack or gybe (a sharp turn) in sight.

Even the code zero (one of the sails, but I still haven’t quite worked out which one) wasn’t required.

But perhaps we all learned a few things.

Some of us may never be experts in the sport and many of those 60,000 people dotted along the seafront will surely testify to that.

As the racing got going, plenty had little or no idea who was winning if they were not within earshot of the big screen commentary.

Some hadn’t even realised the racing had started or where the boundaries of the course were situated.

Several thousand of those present would struggle to name anyone competing other than Sir Ben Ainslie, while others offered a generic ‘ooh’ any time those foils appeared.

But that’s no criticism.

Instead, there is plenty to admire in the fact that the people of this city and beyond, who may have previously had little or no interest in sailing still bought into it with such typical enthusiasm.

They showed their support, they waved their flags, they cheered and were happy to share in the fact with so many the other spectators they had no idea what was going on in a sporting sense.

They were not alone.

Somehow, it didn’t detract from the enjoyment.

But next year when it returns, we’ll be ready.