Glen Sowry: Blake would be proud of steely sailors


A team all Kiwis should be proud of is writing the latest chapter of New Zealand's America's Cup history on the frigid waves of San Francisco Bay.

Seeing Dean Barker, Grant Dalton and crew preparing to head out for race one - their relaxed demeanour disguising a steely determination - was impressive. They are the type of sportsmen Kiwis like to see wearing black - respectful and low-key yet totally focused and driven towards one goal.

As Emirates Team NZ headed for the start line, my heart was just about pounding out of my chest. Would we be quick enough? As we now know, so far so good. I admit I thought this Cup would be a one-sided affair, one team romping away with a big speed edge.

How wrong was I? The dramatic racing Russell Coutts and Larry Ellison promised has been all of that and more. The sight of these two unbelievably high-tech projectiles flying across San Francisco Bay is nothing short of awe-inspiring.

A few years ago we thought we were flying on Steinlager 2 when we hit speeds of 28 knots down Peter Montgomery's liquid Himalayas in the Southern Ocean. These AC72s sail that fast upwind, a feat I know would have thrilled and excited Sir Peter Blake.

His legacy is subtle but present here in San Francisco - from hundreds of Kiwis wearing red socks in his honour, to the magnificent 3D portrait of him hanging in the Team NZ reception area.

This week I was privileged to see the mighty AC72 and its massive wing sail tucked away for the night, the shore crew going over it with a fine-tooth comb.

So much yet so little has changed since Sir Peter's team won the Cup in 1995 off San Diego. The technology is hugely advanced, but the values of the team are omnipresent. I have no doubt he would be immensely proud of Grant Dalton and the team that carries on his legacy.

Glen Sowry is a former professional sailor who was in three Whitbread Round the World Yacht Races and the 2000 New Zealand Olympic sailing team.

- NZ Herald

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