What's sleek, faster than a starving cheetah, and harder to understand than trigonometry as an exchange student in Bulgaria?
People of Aotearoa (nope, not going to say "ladies and gentlemen" - that term is rather limited), I present to you the America's Cup.
Or actually, now that I think about this, I should be asking all of you what's going on. Because the whole thing has me utterly bamboozled.
Really, I haven't the foggiest notion as to what any of it's about. My best friend here in New Zealand is really excited about the America's Cup, though, and tried to explain to me the other day why it's so thrilling. He's a journalist, too, so he's pretty good at making complicated things understandable. Unfortunately, as best he tried, I still thought he might as well have been speaking Ancient Greek.
I'll be the first to admit I don't know much about ships or sailing, but the whole concept of racing isn't too hard to grasp - or at least it shouldn't be. Cross the finish line first or complete the course in the shortest amount of time and you win. Pretty simple, right?
That's what I thought the gist of the America's Cup was. Then I heard something about a Challenger Series, a thing called an AC50, a controversy regarding foiling catamarans, some weird reference to Artemis that had nothing to do with the goddess, and all kinds of gobbledygook featuring enough nautical jargon to confuse all but the most seasoned sailor. I was more lost than that time I went for a walk in the woods while studying in Sweden, and had to flag down a passing motorist to ask how to get back to campus.
Alright, so clearly I haven't got a clue how the rules work. But I'm even more clueless as to why it's such a big deal here.
Seriously, why are so many people in Aotearoa into the America's Cup? Go to any website, watch any TV news show, listen to the radio, or flip open the newspaper, and there's seemingly wall-to-wall coverage of the bloody thing, at levels on par with the Lions rugby tour. What's going on? Is everyone in New Zealand secretly some kind of expert sailor, born with the innate knowledge of how multimillion-dollar boats work in much the same way that us Americans instinctively know what a touchdown is?
Maybe the reasons go beyond fancy boats in the water. Perhaps it has something to do with national pride. After all, everyone likes a good underdog story.
There could be something to that. I looked it up, and apparently the defending America's Cup champion is Team USA (I'm sorry, I mean Oracle Team USA. Can't forget those sponsors). However, I'm fairly certain you could fit every American who actually cares about the America's Cup comfortably inside a Bunnings, and still have enough room to drive a forklift.
Surely, New Zealanders aren't watching the America's Cup for the diversity, though. In the coverage that I've seen, I don't think I've seen a single woman's name mentioned. Come to think of it, are there any women competing at all?
I looked this up too. Of Team New Zealand's 91 staff, there are five women. I'm sure the team and sailing experts will trot out all kinds of explanations for why this is, but I think it makes following the proceedings a bit uncomfortable in that the team doesn't seem to represent the diversity of this great country.
But it could be that I'm missing the point. Maybe it really is that underdog story that captivates the nation, inspiring us all to fight against seemingly impossible odds no matter what.
My closest friends and family can attest I have a rather overactive imagination, so I'm going to use a sci-fi analogy to better understand the America's Cup hype: Star Wars. The America's Cup is like Star Wars.
Think about it: Team New Zealand is the plucky underdog (the Rebel Alliance) fighting to overturn the status quo, while Team USA is the Evil Empire. Instead of battling through space in super-fast ships, they're pitting their vessels against each other in the blue waters of Bermuda.
Yeah, I'm going to go with that. Because now I think I finally understand. I believe I finally have America's Cup fever.
May the Force ... er, wind... be with you, Team New Zealand.