Some thoughts on a couple of recent developments on the U.S. racing scene that are more than a little at odds.
To start with, congratulations to the US Sailing Team (USST) and its outstanding showing at the 53rd French Olympic Week regatta in Hyeres, France, with not one but three podium finishes! Leading the charge was Daniela Moroz taking gold in the Women’s Formula Kite class. Taking silver were Stephanie Roble and Maggie Shea in the 49erFX and Nevin Snow and Mac Agnese in the 49er classes.
How great is it to see American sailors with medals round their necks at such a prestigious international regatta after struggling at the 2020 Olympic regatta in Japan? Could this be the beginning of a real turnaround after years of coming up pretty much empty?
“Hyeres provided great conditions and competition for our athletes to test themselves…the cooperative spirit these athletes displayed showed the true power of ‘Team’ within the resurgent US skiff program,” said USST Coach Charlie McKee.
“The sailors are focused, training hard and collaborating…the results from the spring events in Europe are encouraging,” agreed US Olympic Sailing executive director, Paul Cayard, though he cautioned there’s still along way to go between now and the regatta at the Paris Olympics in 2024.
Again, so great to see the American team making this kind of statement on the international stage. Fingers crossed these fine young athletes continue to make these kinds of waves in the months to come.
Which brings me to the latest developments in the America’s Cup. This past week, the New York Yacht Club and team American Magic announced they were bringing aboard Aussie 2012 Olympic gold medalist and multi-class world champion Tom Slingsby to help them win the 37th Cup, set to take place in Barcelona, Spain, in the fall of 2024. And while this is a good thing, I suppose, the news also strikes me as yet more evidence as to how far the Cup has strayed from its roots—if for no other reason than the fact than an Australian being brought in to help lead an “American” team has long since stopped being in any way controversial.
Don’t get me wrong. Slingsby is not only a hell of a sailor, he seems like a really good guy: same as his boss, U.S. sailor Terry Hutchinson, American Magics president of sailing operations. If you ever want to see some truly inspiring sailing, check out the video of Slingsby’s 2012 gold-medal race in the Laser class below. The man is truly incredible. Watch video here.
That said, my initial response to the news he’s now sailing for “us” was to realize how increasingly difficult it’s become caring about an “American” team that has now long since been only nominally American—in stark contrast to the US Olympic Team, with which I’m now all in. I suppose it’s a bit like if the U.S track team had somehow managed to lure away Jamaican runner Usain Bolt back in the day; that or maybe getting a bunch of red-hot Brazilian footballers, like Ronaldinho, to play for the United States in the World Cup. I don’t want my home team to buy out the competition, I want my home team to beat ‘em!
Let’s all hope that with Slingsby’s help the New York Yacht Club does, indeed, not only win the Cup, but find a way make it a friendly competition between nations the way it was in the past—something at least a handful of members have reportedly been interested in doing for some time now. How great would it be to see Slingsby out there racing with a bunch of Australians against a truly American crew in some truly exciting match-racing? How great would it be to be as excited about the America’s Cup as Slingsby and his fans were when he won Laser gold in the UK? One can only hope if and when that time comes it won’t already be too late.