At the pinnacle of sailing (or, who’s bringing the PBJ’s to AC34?)

Published on April 25th, 2012

By Nick Hayes, Saving Sailing author
I’m interested in the America’s Cup in the same way that I am interested in a mission to Mars: It seems pretty cool. I’m aware that it’s happening, and if I happen upon an attractive headline, I’ll scan the article. Like many, I’m intrigued by the science and technology and I’m impressed by the speeds that the new boats are achieving.

Sure, there might be some eventual technology trickle down, and that’s something to look forward to. But frankly, the opportunity to buy something pales in comparison with the opportunity to experience something, and like nearly everyone else on the planet, I face the reality that I won’t experience anything like it in my lifetime. Ever.

Yes, the Cup is rich with lore on a mythical scale. A decades-long string of U.S. wins until 1983 came to symbolize America’s rise to power. History books tell us that its people and personalities are larger than life; some of the races epitomize the battle for global dominance; and its back stories offer glimpses into how politics and money really work.

However, claims of its vast public relations reach and influence are flat-out unfounded.

Statistically, today’s AC sailors touch and inspire fewer folks than any other sporting pinnacle players, including the stars in Cricket and spelunking. The actual spectacle isn’t suited to spectating, so it won’t go viral, much less receive much media attention, except in “and now for something completely different” newsreels, and by a small group of fervent writers and readers of all things sailing. When the break-away animation is more popular than the actual film footage, you know you have a problem. And the Cup itself is perhaps the most out of reach amateur prize in all of sport: only two dozen humans among 6.5 billion on this planet have the means to seek it. These are the same folks who can pay for private space flight, bless ’em.

Frankly, I don’t lose much sleep over this, because in fact, sailing is well within reach for most Americans. And most sailors know that sailing isn’t a spectator sport like NASCAR. It’s time spent with friends. – Read on

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