Home Team Advantage

20 Jun
I have been watching the America’s Cup with interest not only because I love the flying boats and the technology that is on display, but it’s also been interesting to look closely at the various teams and how they function as a unit. There is one component that is not visible and one that money cannot buy and it’s going to be the deciding factor in the Final Series. I have been predicting that Emirates Team New Zealand is going to win this thing and that’s because they have this secret potion in abundance. And the secret potion? National pride. Plain and simple.
If you have ever been to New Zealand you will know what I am talking about. This is a small island nation with a population of just over four and a half million and most of them live fairly close to the water and therefore have a close association with boats. It’s not an understatement to say that the country is sailing crazy. Let me give you just one example. Many years ago I sailed into New Zealand on the second leg of the Whitbread Round the World Race. Of course the reception and support we got was unbelievable but that’s not what I am talking about. Midway though the stopover my girlfriend and I took a short holiday. I wanted to get away from the water and see some dirt for a change so we booked a few nights on a farm in the middle of the North Island. Sheep country. 
When we arrived at the farm we were surprised to find that the farmer and his wife and children had been following the Whitbread with a kind of religious fervor. They had even made a large chart for each leg and had been plotting the daily positions. This was long before the Internet. The New Zealand Herald newspaper printed the positions of each boat daily and as a family they plotted the latitude and longitude of each team and noted how they were doing paying particular attention to the Kiwi yachts which that year were Peter Blake on Ceramco New Zealand and Digby Taylor on Outward Bound.
You see it’s this kind of National Pride and support that run deep in the veins of all Kiwis and especially those representing their country in sports. The sailors on Emirates Team New Zealand know that their entire nation is watching the racing and cheering for them. It’s like having a home team advantage even if they are racing halfway around the world. We all know that a home team advantage can make all the difference and ETNZ are carrying this elixir with them into each race. Unfortunately, you can’t say that about Oracle Team USA. I think it’s fair to say that most of my American friends are cheering for the New Zealand team and I think that the amazingly talented Jimmy Spithill feels that negative vibe each time he lines up on the start line against ETNZ.
Oh, and one more thing. Pete Burling and his team also have another secret potion. Blinding boat speed – at least in the light stuff and we all know – and the America’s should have known too – that there is very little wind in Bermuda in the summer.
Oracle Team USA

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Brian Hancock – owner Great Circle Sails

This article was syndicated from Great Circle Sails Blog


  1. Joseph Greer

    Why is it that Oracle Team USA is sailing longer distances with less average boat speed? Is Emirates Team NZ picking better lines? Is Jimmy Spithill making mistakes on course? USA starts are terrible and I though Spithill was supposed to be expert at starting.

  2. More sails

    Last cup the cats were hot to watch, this cup very boring, with out sail changes , the excitement of mark roundings is gone,just fast and no noticeable crew work to watch is now boring. Lets get back to monohulls with shorter courses and lots of sail changes!

  3. Carl Goodwin

    New Zealand pride took off during the mid-seventies, primarily with a group of Quarter Ton boat designers led by Bruce Farr and his world champion “45-degrees South.” This is a 24-foot keel boat that could hit 18 knots. Other New Zealanders included Laurie Davidson, the designer of “Fun,” and the great Paul Whiting who created “Runaway Bus.” The move into the big-boat classes took place shortly afterward. These wonderful boat designs not only shone credit on their homeland but they were a gift to all monohull sailors, these boats with such great speed and fine sailing qualities.

  4. Nate Berkowitz

    The cats are like flying fish–fast furious and not good either for eating or for beating to windward.

  5. Nate Berkowitz

    Being an octogenerarian and a sailor who started as a mess boy on banana boats and progressed thru meter boats and living on the Greatest Sailing waters of San Francisco Bay I find the stories of flying fish and catamaran’s exciting but lacking the my empathy of wind on my sails and sea spray on my face. The cats are fast but alas I will never be able to sample their thrills. So back to my dinghy’s and wishing the few who fly their boats good sailing.

  6. Kruisn

    Lets keep the topic on sailing. Sailing and indeed any honest sport does not need or involve politics.
    All the AC teams know and are mostly mates with each other when not racing. They all love the sport in its varied nuances. Oh yes, GO THE KIWIS.

  7. Peter Nilsson

    Ah, the joy of sailing away while the politicalubbers have at it on land.

    I hope Oracle Team USA manages to make this a more competitive match extending the fun for all, but it does appear the ETNZ will peddle away with the cup.

    It is remarkable that a huge contraption with giant sails exposed to changing wind can be balanced in the air on a small fin on one side under water traveling at 40+ knots – and that it can be steered in the direction you want to go.

  8. Mr. Karlin Larry M.

    Ken Skodacek,

    Good grief, this is the America’s Cup, not a referendum on America’s politics. Let’s focus on innovation and skill and put politics on the back burner. It’s sailing competition, not an Obama/Trump referendum.

  9. Milton J Schoof

    Thank You for your comments and fine insight. I haven’t been able to watch all the races, but those that I have seen were truly excellent. No question the Kiwis have been dominate, but I think they have also found a little technical trick or two that gives them that extra bit of speed in addition to the spirite you talk about.

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