As evidence of just how far foiling has come in the America’s Cup, look no further than Oracle Team USA’s capsize this past Sunday. Time was that capsizing your boat could have signaled the end of your campaign, but not anymore.
Remember when Oracle first dumped its AC72 while training on San Francisco Bay and then spent hours desperately trying to salvage the thing before it could be swept out into the open Pacific? How about when Emirates Team New Zealand nearly flipped its boat in the finals? You could not imagine a more rattled looking sailor than Dean Barker afterward.
Now you just dust yourself off and sail away. Heck, you don’t even have guys flying through the air anymore to land in the water with a dramatic, “Smack!” Watch the video carefully. The guys to windward just hunker down in their cockpits. Only one member of the six-man crew even gets appreciably wet.
Whether this is a good thing or not is debatable. Obviously, nobody wants anybody to actually get hurt, and it may have just been dumb luck that Oracle didn’t wreck its boat. But then again, a sense of danger should also be a part of anything that advertises itself as being on the cutting edge. And when the odd capsize becomes routine, the race as a whole becomes that much less interesting.
Again, when ETNZ nearly went over on San Francisco Bay it was a moment of incredibly high drama. Now, while the announcers will undoubtedly do their best to play up the excitement should a capsize ever occur during an actual race, those in the know will know it’s not the same. As part of the organizers’ never-ending quest to monetize the event, I fear this is yet another way in which the final “product” that is the America’s Cup is becoming that much more bland.