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Escaping this quarantine monotony

Published on March 4th, 2021

The America’s Cup is nearly as polarizing as American politics, and while we struggle among the later to accept other people’s opinion, this commentary by Kai Yves offers a reason to understand her position about the former:

Living out the pandemic on Long Island, enduring the gray dead of winter, I have found the America’s Cup to be a great mental tonic, a reminder that somewhere in the Southern latitudes there really is a magical land of sunshine and spectacular volcanic scenery, where people can swim at the beach and watch sailing races unmasked and, as Stephen Colbert put it, hugs still happen.

After a day that often feels just like every other day for months, the America’s Cup racing has been my great escape, pulling on my headphones at night to hear that dynamic intro music, and to be greeted by Ken, Nathan, and Shirley as they commence with their commentary.

And the root of this relief is the unusual nature of the AC75s and how they appeal to me.

For most of my life, I have been a fan of space exploration and the type of unique, high-tech machines that may be the only ones of their kind ever assembled by humanity. I enjoy learning about the engineering and science behind the designs and watching these “test pilots” learn more about their experimental craft by the day.

I can no more find an AC75 at my local harbor than I could find a space shuttle, but nobody has ever tried to make me feel that was a reason to find the space shuttle any less interesting!

Although I am a fan of more “conventional” sailboats as well (and prior to the pandemic, I crewed on Lightnings and various cruiser-racers at my local yacht club), seeing something I can see nowhere else is part of the appeal of the America’s Cup.

Isn’t that the root of so much of our fascination with stories of grand adventures and exotic feats— something that can’t be seen anywhere else because it’s so far beyond the mundane, beyond our own abilities, beyond anything we ourselves have ever done?

Would we have gasped and clutched our armrests watching “Free Solo” in the theaters if Alex Honnold had been climbing the rock wall at the local gym instead of free-soloing El Capitan?

There are any number of elite conventional monohull series available to watch around the world, even in the former AC 12-Metre and J Classes, and someday there may perhaps be a revival for the IACC as well. Why make the America’s Cup just another instead of something truly unique?

I do also find the races engaging, delivering high drama, intense action constantly backgrounded with the kind of soap opera backstory that has (for better and worse) been part of the AC for 170 years… I am hooked.

Of course, I am not an uncritical fan of the America’s Cup, in this edition or in general.

I do wish there were more teams and regret that there are no female participants and have been none in the event overall since 2005.

There are several high-profile team backers with political affiliations I find distasteful that soured me on their teams, and I must admit I’m not fond of a petrochemical company known for its poor environmental record being present at an event that could be a showcase for protecting our marine environment as The Ocean Race has become.

And I’d rather we eliminate the endless debates over nationality rules by making national affiliation an option rather than a requirement and allowing teams to compete, if they do choose, as honestly international entities under the UN flag as OneWorld attempted to do in 2003.

But for all of its flaws, I’ve been enjoying the competition and hope New Zealand can defend successfully and accommodate reforms that address these concerns in the next cycle while still maintaining the current pace of heady technological innovation.

The racing is wild, it’s far-out, it’s experimental, sometimes shaky, sometimes even disastrous, but it’s exactly the escape I need in this quarantine monotony.

More information:
• America’s Cup format, standings, and how to watch online: click here.
• Complete America’s Cup coverage: click here
• Additional America’s Cup information: click here

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