As a sporting event, despite its claim as the world’s oldest international sporting trophy, nothing matches the America’s Cup for unrelenting boredom. The Armenian line‑dancing championships would be heart‑attack inducing spectator territory by comparison.
For a start it’s not as implied, a competition between nations, but instead an indulgence periodically taken up by ever changing wealthy individuals. As for its significance, a few years ago New Zealand journalists attending a challenge in San Diego reported their shock to find no‑one in the city was aware it was taking place.
It was always a non‑event, ignored by the public and media, not the least as an American yacht invariably won. That changed when Australia’s Alan Bond, or more accurately given Bond’s soon after epic bankruptcy, Australian banks funded a successful 1983 challenge. Public interest then soared in New Zealand when Michael Fay mounted a challenge.
A New Zealand yacht won it in 2000 and lost it in Auckland in 2003. Technically I witness that defeat. I say technically for this reason.
Bayleys Commercial Real Estate kindly invited me to join them on their large cruiser to witness the key race scheduled for a Sunday. Normally that would have about as much appeal as a couple of hours on a medieval rack, but, as I was about to become a father yet again, this time in Auckland and thus had to go up, foolishly I accepted. It proved to be the most tortuous day of my life.
Along with hundreds of other boats lined up alongside one another out in the ocean, in two rows about 500 metres apart, the air stank of petrol fumes. That was because all boats had to keep their engines running so as to readily shuffle back and forth to maintain straight lines. To add to the horror was the terrible noise of these hundred or so engines running.
Meanwhile, for seemingly eternity, two yachts bored us witless as they went back and forth, back and forth, ad infinitum with no discernible leader.
Excessive drinking helped for an hour but eventually it was simply unbearable. I contemplated suicide, but how? Drowning was obviously out as everyone would pluck me out of the drink. I dismissed that in the end, mindful of the pending newborn (a son) asking in later life what happened to his father and being told he committed suicide the day you were born, with the obvious implication.
Then I had my Eureka moment; I’d swim ashore in my underpants. It was a fair distance but 50 metres overarm sessions interspersed with a bit of arm rowing on my back and I could go for hours.
So I asked my hosts to ring a taxi to pick me up in an hour on the beach. They pointed out that first, most taxi‑drivers would object to a passenger naked but for brief sodden underpants but more pertinent, bowling into the hotel foyer and up to the reception in wet underpants to get a room key invited a calling the police hotel response.
However, they offered salvation. Go below deck they suggested. So I did, there to encounter an army of other dazed refugees, all steadfastly putting it away and now blessedly free of the oil stench, the engine noise and the absolute non‑spectacle we were supposed to be excited about. A merry time was had by all.
The next morning’s Herald claimed it was the most exciting race in America’s Cup history. Bloody hell! That explains why some people opt to spend the only life they’ll ever have, living in the likes of Westport or Shannon, although in fairness, rather either than ever enduring the nightmare level boredom of watching an America’s Cup race again.
The only exciting yachting is either in lasers, or better still, windsurfing.
But here’s the point. New Zealanders, or Aucklanders in particular, labour under the belief the America’s Cup commands global attention. It doesn’t, indeed to the contrary it’s almost totally ignored. Thus I resent our rates and taxes going towards this rich men’s ego-indulgence on the utterly bogus grounds of tourism-promoting value.