The America’s Cup. The oldest and most illustrious prize in sport. Originating in England in 1895, its legacy has stood the test of time and exists as one of the purest examples of sporting theatre in the modern world. Just look at how it captivates our small nation. All other sport took a backseat when those boats hit the bays of Bermuda. The 5am rise became norm for those of us that believed Team New Zealand could vanquish the demons of years gone by and bury the dark memories of San Fran in the depths of the Atlantic Ocean. But a billion dollars for Christ’s sake?
It is said when all things are tallied at the end of the day, the figure does exist in the 10-digit area which is some serious dosh. Estimates out of the Oracle camp say chief executive Larry Ellison forked out $300 million dollars on this year’s defence. You wouldn’t be wrong to think that that’s a colossal waste of money but when you factor in his $28 billion net worth as the sixth richest man in the world, you’d think he’d still have a smile on his face. Team New Zealand’s expenditure was considerably less than Oracle’s, really answering the question that size doesn’t matter, and was found to be around the $36 million mark. $36 mill out of tax payer’s pockets so that half a dozen white guys can run back and forth on a boat.
Everything about this says to me that it’s just a new way for the government to piss away resources that would be better placed in education or social development. Think of what good a multi-million-dollar donation to those sectors would do. But despite myself, I cannot look away from this bloody race. If you have any kind of love for sport, when you see those birds up on their foils, slicing through the water at 40-50 knots, sea spray flying out behind them, it just gets the blood pumping. There’s no other way to describe it. And when they crash, boy isn’t it bloody spectacular. To see them travelling at that speed and suddenly lurch forward, pitching into the ocean, the ass of the boat comes up and just as she’s on her precipice, she topples over, sending helmsman and cyclors alike into the sea and causing Pete Montgomery to lose his shit.
And before you start thinking I jack off to yachts in my spare time, it’s not just me that sees the attraction of this historic event. Current television ratings put the America’s Cup as having more viewers than any of the Lions’ games and by a considerable margin, I might add. Reports from 2013 saw nearly a quarter of the country transfixed on our effort to close that one out. Personally, there’s one man that needs a pat on the back for that and that’s Jimmy Spithill. If there’s one thing you don’t expect from a boat race, it’s trash talk and bravado. After an exciting race on the water, the best thing to compliment it is with fiery one-liners that gets the fans all excited and the journalists practically foaming at the mouth in expectation of the headlines they get to write.
There’s no doubt the $36 million is a hell of a lot of money. But when it’s used to create a sporting event that tops even the All Blacks? That seems like something worth investing in.