Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Sad fate for Humpty Dumpty challenger

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Despite the best efforts of American Magic to keep the boat afloat, the end result was the same as Humpty Dumpty’s big fall. Photo Carlo Borlenghi

I couldn’t stop hearing the Beatles’ Yellow Submarine song ringing  in my head when American Magic’s Patriot capsized on the Waitemata Habour waters during their fateful Prada Cup campaign.

Despite the best efforts of their rivals to keep the boat afloat, the end result was the same as Humpty Dumpty’s when all the king’s horses and all the king’s men couldn’t put Humpty together again.

Actually they did get Patriot afloat but helmsman Dean Barker’s boat and crew couldn’t match the wizardry of Jimmy Spithill’s Luna Rossa in the battle to decide who faced the British in the Prada Cup final.

One has to feel sorry for the personable Barker who, like the British, has yet to win an America’s Cup. That includes two losses as the helmsman of Team NZ in 2003 and 2013, the latter when losing 9-8 to Spithill’s Oracle after leading 8-1.

Now we eagerly await the shootout between Luna Rossa and Britannia to decide which one challenges Team New Zealand’s Te Rehutai (Sea Spray) for the Auld Mug.

If the racing emulates the last clash between the pair, when the lead changed nine times before Sir Ben Ainslie’s Britannia triumphed narrowly, then we are in for some real excitement.

The sharper the contest and the racing experience gained by both crews in high speed, high risk AC75 hydrofoil monohulls, the greater their advantage over the idle defending champions who won the World Series earlier.

With the benefit of extra racing, Ainslie and Spithill have sharpened their starts far greater than what we had seen from Te Rehutai’s Peter Burling earlier.

Despite the fact most pundits believed Te Rehutai had superior speed, its best of 49.1 knots was inferior to Britannia’s 50.25 and Patriot’s 53.31 during racing. However weather conditions obviously had a bearing on those figures.

With three great helmsmen in Ainslie, Spithill and Burling, stability is going to play as big a part as sailing finesse and boat speed.

Meanwhile it looks likely charismatic NZ Warriors captain Roger Tuivasa-Sheck will switch codes in 2022 in pursuit of an All Blacks jersey before the 2023 Rugby World Cup.

As talented as he is, it is a huge gamble when one considers the competition for fullback and wing that already exists between Beauden and Jordie Barrett, Damian McKenzie, Caleb Clarke, George Bridge, Sevu Reece and Will Jordan.

That will make Tuivasa-Sheck the eighth challenger for one of three positions against seven who have much more experience in the 15-man game.

The league star is noted for his strength, courage and snappy sidestep but seldom punts the ball and could have difficulty positioning himself at fullback for the kicks he can expect to field in union.

Meanwhile the Warriors will have big hopes of him playing a major role in their bid to make this year’s NRL play-offs. He’s a champion in a team that has struggled for success through no fault of his own.

  • Ivan Agnew is an award-winning sports writer

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