Racing

Oracle: Stop the Madness

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Call it sour grapes, but I for one am getting sick and tired of the way many sailors—pros in particular—feel it necessary to spray champagne all over the place after winning a regatta. The first few times, I suppose it was kind of funny. The next few dozen times may have been fun as well. But after years of wasting untold hundreds, if not thousands of perfectly good bottles of bubbly, I say it’s time to stop the madness. 

We’re sailors after all. Aren’t we supposed to want to chug this stuff by the barrel-full? Can you imagine Sir Francis Drake or Ernest Shackleton deliberately showering a bunch of their friends with perfectly good drink as they celebrated their latest sailing adventure? I should think not! True, they probably spilled plenty of hooch over the years, but I strongly suspect it was not only purely accidental, but the result of a fair bit of the stuff having already made its way safely down their gullets. (Heaven knows I’ve wasted my share of drink under these very circumstances!)

How many more gallons of Moët will Oracle skipper James Spithill be allowed to callously sacrifice before his Australian compatriots—a people renowned for their appreciation of good drink—say enough is enough? Admittedly, champagne is not really the beverage of choice for our friends Down Under, but that’s no excuse. How many more gallons will we Americans allow to be spattered across the San Francisco waterfront during the upcoming America’s Cup before we do the same?

And what of the poor young ladies whose job it is to supply these rascals with their ammunition? How must they feel knowing their moment in the limelight is destined to devolve into the liquid equivalent of a food fight? “Congratulations, Mr. Coutts, on your victory. Let me present you with this bottle of…EEK!” The next time a pretty girl hands me a magnum of chilled champagne, I can assure I will say thank you, and drink it right down—I might even use a glass, if one is handy. 

Granted, sailors have long christened ships of all sizes with bottles of various drink—the frigate Constitution was apparently blessed with a bottle of fine madeira—but there’s a difference between ritualistically anointing a vessel at its launching and deliberately hosing down everyone and everything in sight with multiple bottles of bubbly. Seriously, this is a  “tradition” that has long since outlived its vintage.

Photos courtesy of Gilles Martin-Raget/34th America's Cup

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