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Lessons From the Sting of Defeat – Kiwi’s Perspective

Published on August 28th, 2014

At what some see as the pinnacle of our sport, the sailing world watched one of the greatest, or one of the worst, dramas unfold in San Francisco at the 34th America’s Cup. The most improbable of all comebacks, or thrilling victories, and also one of the most agonizing of all defeats, played out on the waters of SF Bay, narrated by American commentators, triumphal at the end, and Kiwi analysts, shocked at the crushing defeat. Airwave New Zealand correspondent, Sara Morgan Watters, got a chance to catch up with Peter Montgomery, the voice of NZL Yachting, and get his thoughts on what happened, and why.

Race 8 is what Peter Montgomery, New Zealand’s voice of yachting, will most remember of the 34th America’s Cup. Known by most as PJ, avid sports fans remember him best for his iconic call in 1995 “America’s Cup is now New Zealand’s Cup!” But broadcasting in 2013, those words, for a brief moment were only sweet memories for fans watching, during what became one of sport’s greatest comebacks.

Although PJ wasn’t able to repeat those famous words during his coverage in San Francisco, he did get an insiders view of the Cup that he recently shared at an evening presentation I attended at the Royal Port Nicholson Yacht Club in Wellington. In an attempt to better understand how Emirates Team New Zealand lost their lead to go on to loose the Cup, PJ broke it down into three main mistakes, holding ETNZ players both on and off the water responsible.

1. Kiwis made a mistake on the water

According to PJ, the beginning of the end was in Race 8 when Team New Zealand nearly capsized, after a last minute decision to tack because of a questionable port/starboard crossing. Problems with the hydraulics during the tack caused the one hull to lift out of the water, making the boat heel to a 44.8 degree angle. Only .2 degrees away from capsizing, at the time it was a victory that the team managed to recover with out any damage, but according to PJ, this was the first of three costly mistakes that lead to their defeat.

Eager to gain some insider knowledge and a better understanding of how this important crossing unfolded, PJ re-played this painful moment to the audience. I could feel the tension in the room rise as the footage revealed that in fact the Kiwis would have crossed on port cleanly with on-board audio between Oracle’s Ben Ainslie and skipper Jimmy Spithill confirming this as they discussed having to sail behind the Kiwi team. Instead, in a moment of hesitation, the Kiwis decided to tack, causing a near disaster. The icing on the cake was the American announcers, Gary Jobson and Ken Read (broadcasters that didn’t appear on Kiwi coverage) saying “airplane tickets are being changed from Monday to Tuesday”, as Team Oracle took the lead to go on and win the race and prolong the series. Read on.

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