It has been a while since the often outspoken and hilarious Tim Gregory has written for us, but this week he returns with his top five. In a sport that is as ferociously competitive as it can be farcical, Tim looks at some indelible personalities and moments that make up the modern era of Americas Cup racing.
#5 Mr America’s Cup
From 1987 through to 2003, Dennis Conner was skipper of the highly successful Stars & Stripes yachts. His accomplishments on the water led to the nickname “Mister America’s Cup”, and his antics off it earned him the title “Big Bad Dennis.” Perhaps his most famous stoush with kiwis came in the late eighties when he called the kiwi boat a ‘dog’ and its designer Bruce Farr a ‘loser’ after some rather heated exchanges. When asked to make an apology on the very first ‘Holmes’ show—he appeared irritated at the line of questioning and walked out of the interview on live TV in dramatic style. He has since declared himself a fan of Team New Zealand and is looking forward to seeing the event potentially back on our shores.
#4 Bob’s Pledge
In 1983 Australia managed to do what no other nation had managed to in the previous 132 years, take the America’s Cup away from America. As a reward, their then larrikin Prime Minister Bob Hawke appeared on national television, half cut, to inform the country that they could all have the day off. ‘’I’ll tell you what … any boss who sacks anyone today for not turning up is a bum.’’ A memorable clanger from a leader that knows how to keep his compatriots happy. Take note Bill English, maybe this weekend could start now?
#3 Got that Sinking Feeling?
America’s Cup had it’s own version of the Titanic in the mid nineties when our friends from West Island’s boat ended up as a sea bed attraction for divers in San Diego. ‘Australia One’ as they were known, struck trouble in heavy conditions during a round robin race against Team New Zealand. Having been pummelled by several rogue waves, the Aussie boat then transformed into a fibre glass version of a banana split. Within less than a minute the crew were forced to jump overboard and clamber onto the Team New Zealand chase boat in time to watch their campaign sink to the bottom of the pacific. I’m not sure what was a worse look for Australians—the capsize, or the fact they were sponsored by Fosters, the beer no one ever admits to drinking!
#2 Never count your chickens
Four years ago on the waters near San Francisco’s vibrant city, things were sailing far too smoothly for Grant Dalton, Dean Barker and the crew onboard Emirates Team New Zealand. Having smashed their way through the challenger series with little more than a ripple of resistance, the Kiwis then ran away to an 8-1 lead in the best of nine America’s Cup races. For their opponents and defenders Oracle, the deficit to bridge seemed longer then the nearby famous Golden Gate. But just when the champagne was brought out to chill on ice, and the fat lady was clearing her throat, Oracle mounted a comeback for the ages. As each race was run and lost, New Zealand’s elation turned to anxiety. At 8-all our sphincters were twitching like a rabbit’s nose. When the American boat took line honours in the ‘winner-takes-all’ 17th race, our hearts had well and truly been put through the blender. My own personal theory is that TNZ’s boat was bogged down by brown paper bags within the hull labelled “Don’t open until Christmas, love from Larry.”
#1 New Zealand’s Cup
“The Americas Cup is now New Zealand’s Cup’—a string of eight iconic words verbalised by the voice of sailing, Peter Montgomery. 1995 will always be remembered fondly in the hearts and minds of all Kiwis. It was the year the underdog took on the might of America and beat them in their back yard. Even if you didn’t consider yourself a sports fan, you couldn’t help but get caught up in the hype. Nanas from Kaitaia to Invercargill knitted their own versions of Sir Peter Blake’s superstitious ‘lucky red socks’ and the ticker tape parade that greeted the baby faced skipper Russell Coutts and company on arrival home, remains the largest our country has seen. The win not only did a lot to lift our spirits, it also left a lasting legacy by way of creating the viaduct restaurant and bar precinct for the next two events held in 2000 and 2003.
Burling and the boys recreated a bit of black magic last week and returned the worlds coolest looking vase back to Aotearoa!