Billy and Akaisha Kaderli
While visiting New Zealand in February, 2003, a rare and
exciting event called the America's Cup was taking place.
The oldest and best known trophy in international yachting
competitions, affectionately known as the "Auld Mug", has a long
and prestigious history. It was first offered as the Hundred Guinea Cup in
1851 by the Royal Yacht Squadron for a race around the Isle of Wight. The
America, a 100 ft. schooner from New York City, sailed to England where
she participated in and won this race. Their silver pitcher trophy
subsequently became known as "The America's Cup".
The American winners of the cup entrusted The New York Yacht Club (NYYC)
with the "Auld Mug" in 1857 for a perpetual international
challenge competition. In 1987 the San Diego Yacht Club took control of
the U.S. competition, and the cup seemed to be cemented safely in its
case, though challenge, after challenge was mounted. Finally, in 1983, Australia
II, with its now legendary winged keel, beat NYYC's Liberty 4-3,
taking the cup out of the USA for the first time in its 132 year history.
In 1987, the USA wrested the cup back from the Aussies off Fremantle,
New Zealand's first challenge was mounted in 1988 at San
Diego, and they competed vigorously ever since, clearly learning from each
challenge. But it was not until May 14, 1995 that New Zealand's Black
Magic, skippered by Russell Coutts, blanked the US 5-0 in the best of 9
series. The New Zealand yacht was too good in almost every way for US
defender Dennis Conner and his team in Young America. For only the second
time in 144 years, this amazing victory off San Diego's coast, entitled
the Kiwis to take the America's Cup out of the US, to New Zealand.
After the Cup victory and a hero's welcome in a nation where
sailing is a leading sport, Coutts remained in the spotlight. Along with
Tom Schnackenberg, and Brad Butterworth, Coutts took over the
administration of Team New Zealand, replacing yachting legend Sir Peter
Blake. The heavy responsibility of securing and paying a team of yacht
designers, a crew of sailors, negotiating broadcasting rights, finding
sponsorship and otherwise attending to the endless details of operating
Team New Zealand fell to Coutts and his two partners. This total
obligation proved to be too much for them to handle.
Auckland and the Hauraki Gulf were
chosen as the next race site, and the Viaduct Basin was completely
redeveloped. Twelve challenger syndicates settled into the Cup
Village in 1999.
Coutts and Butterworth quit Team New Zealand in May of 2002,
and were lured by the Swiss who were determined to get the best crew to
skipper their challenger boat Alingha. This "disloyalty" threw
the Kiwis into total turmoil. Nonetheless, the Kiwis were so confident of
their Black Boat that they did not bother to test it in anything other
than ideal conditions.
BEAUTIFUL AUCKLAND HARBOR
Out of the best of nine races in the America's Cup Series in 2003, the
Kiwis broke critical parts in three, darn near sank in one, and didn't
finish two. Quite upsetting and disappointing to New Zealanders, the talk
in pubs, on TV, radio shows and in newspaper print was "the
Race". Issues of loyalty, team effort, capitalism, free agents,
economic windfalls, boat building and weather conditions were all
discussed and argued over. This embarrassing loss was obviously hard for
the Kiwiís tight knit sailing community.
Now, itís up to the Swiss to defend the Cup. Time will tell if they
can keep it in their grasp, but whatever happens, you can bet it will be
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