By Dr. Lawana R. Lofton, PsyD -
This year’s 34th America’s Cup race captured new fans to the sport in record numbers simply due to innovative AC72 sailing vessels developed like only Larry Ellison can do, and the caliber of racing competition displayed on the San Francisco Bay.
If there was a list of Top 10 greatest comeback stories, the battle to win the 34th America’s Cup would take top billing. For perspective, just to compete in the America’s Cup race, first many teams must compete over a series of preliminary races, matches and fleet racing competitions. Then, the best of those winners compete for the Louis Vuitton Cup. The winner of this cup wins the honor to race against the current America’s Cup holder which was the USA. Emirates Team New Zealand won the 2013 Louis Vuitton Cup and due honor to compete against the team holder of the 33rd America’s Cup defender, Oracle Team USA.
At this point in the competition Emirates Team New Zealand had accomplished the extraordinary in such an impressive way. The country of New Zealand is cheering them on along with several dozens of their countryman who had travelled to the United States to view them winning live and in person, and ultimately taking both the Louis Vuitton and America’s Cup home to New Zealand.
The start of 34th America’s Cup racing commences. Immediately Oracle Team USA is given a penalty of two points for reported illegal adjustments made to their boat. Consequently, Oracle is starting the competition at minus two points. When it became palpable Emirates Team New Zealand was more than ¾ on their way to winning and Oracle was still in the negative on the scoreboard, it was all but over.
Emirates Team New Zealand was expected to win the whole enchilada, and then out of the blue, in a phenomenal comeback from behind, Oracle Team USA stood firm to a winning mentality of taking the competition …”one race at a time.” Even while the scoreboard read Oracle 1 to Emirates 8 and the team to obtain nine first wins, Skipper Jimmy Spithill reinforced to the world “we can win.” It seemed unlikely and frankly impossible.
There had been some fierce competitive match races thus far. Emirate’s boat was becoming faster if that was even possible and to everyone’s surprise Oracle’s boat did not seem to be catching the “right wind” to give them an advantage. Maybe it was their speed or inability to foil on the water in their AC72 massive catamaran like Emirate’s boat which allows the boat to travel faster. Nevertheless, Oracle was not going to give up the cup that easily without a fight.
Everyone was excited for the next race because it would determine the winner of the cup. It was that close to the end. Many people I know personally, including myself, took vacation from work just to see the last race.
Race by race Oracle Team USA struggled in an astonishing battle to delay an inevitable defeat with postponements. Here in San Francisco, California, we braced ourselves at the edge of AC Park pier and water’s edge eager to see how the race would end. An international community viewed the races on NBC Sports television broadcasts, YouTube and took to twitter to voice their astonishment at the level of perseverance on display in the San Francisco Bay. The human fascination we have with overcoming odds is translatable to all.
Emirates Team New Zealand is one win away from winning the America’s Cup, they are leading over Oracle, rounded the last leg in the race and heading for the finish line, but due to a lack of wind which limited their speed on the course, they were not able to cross the finish line within the time limit rules therefore the official judges ruled the race did not count. The official rules state the competitors must cross the finish line within strict time restraints, as well as regulations that dictate when races must be postponed if wind speeds are too high or too low.
With all the postponements due to rules a true dilemma was forming. Race the world’s best in conditions you’ve trained for, or win in less than ideal conditions and never really know if you were the best sailor?
For example, take the Olympics. Most enjoy viewing the struggle and astonishing accomplishments leading to success over defeat. Defeating all odds to persevere. The viewer of such a Olympic event wants to push then along if they could, and if the viewer physically could, those in the game would say “Don’t you dare!” We all need to experience the joy of defeating that which is a challenge. You see it is in the personal experience of victory felt, we gain individual conﬁdence in our ability to conquer the next problem and personal challenges.
We all naturally want to win on our own merits.
So, the only dilemma which remains is who is the best sailor and how best to judge the race.
Skipper Dean Barker Emirates Team New Zealand states …”It’s right there for the taking, we just have to put a solid race together. We’re fast enough to win this.”
As if all this was not dramatic entertainment enough, Oracle Team USA announces a significant crew change. Viewed as a risky decision, Oracle Team USA replaces tactician John Kostecki mid competition with Ben Ainslie. The crew changes was like having three quarterbacks on one boat, yet with the level of shared communication and I believe more than anything the character to win, it worked.
Ben Ainslie now racing for Oracle states “Having the momentum now makes the guys believe that they can go out there and win, and that we can defend the America’s Cup.”
The new crew takes Oracle from a 1 to 8 points standing to an even match race of 8 to 8. The next race would be …..”Winner take all” and the new winner of the 34th America’s Cup.
@KateLaven Tweets…….”What commentators don’t understand is that Ainslie absolutely thrives on this kind of huge huge pressure. Game over.”
The last race was a herculean effort by both teams but only one could be victorious.
Congratulations to Oracle Team USA on winning the 34th America’s Cup. Emirates Team New Zealand did not make it easy for Oracle and will forever be known as the team that challenged the defender of the cup. This alone is no easy feat so as a team they should be proud of making history.
Simply extraordinary! I’d never seen anything like it.
Until Next Time: a’ Donf
Recommended Reading: Dr. Lawana Rene’ Lofton. Psychological Précipice: The Psychological Pursuit To Find The Best In You (2009).