Ahead of the America's Cup, Luna Rossa co-helmsman Jimmy Spithill was meant to be public enemy No 1, an Australian rogue we all loved to hate.
But by the end of this regatta even the most patriotic Kiwi would likely admit it was impossible not to like the 41-year-old.
He brought candour, charisma and competitiveness, even in the most difficult circumstances. Spithill never gave up – always finding a silver lining in the most difficult times – and was respectful and gracious in victory and defeat.
Remember the reaction when he was first signed up by Luna Rossa in 2018?
There had been some notable past verbal jousts with Team New Zealand and Grant Dalton's reaction was that everything would be fine with the Luna Rossa relationship, as long as "Jimmy keeps his gob shut."
Actually, the inverse was true.
The straight talking, eloquent Sydneysider enlivened the event, always willing to speak his mind, providing new storylines for media and fans alike.
For New Zealand audiences, used to the cliched, dull responses from many of our prominent sporting teams ("we are just focusing on ourselves"), Spithill was a breath of fresh air.
And while he has well-honed media persona, away from the cameras he doesn't really change.
"Mate, I'm excited – what an opportunity," he told the Herald on the night Luna Rossa were consigned to the sudden death semifinal against American Magic, after three straight losses to Ineos Team UK.
It was a difficult moment for Luna Rossa, who had arrived in Auckland with plenty of expectation, but Spithill was bullish.
"It's a chance for us to really test ourselves and see what we are made of."
He insisted the extra racing would be a blessing in disguise and was vindicated when Luna Rossa prevailed in the Prada Cup final.
"It was a challenge," said Spithill "That is why you are here. That's the great thing about sport. You are exposed, whether you win, lose, make good decisions or make bad decisions. For me it was a bit of curiosity to see as a group, how we would react to that."
The America's Cup match showed Spithill at his best, which in turn lifted Peter Burling's performances to a new level. The Italians won six of 10 pre-starts, but both teams managed some brilliant high-speed pre-start manoeuvres in the AC75s.
And the racing was exceptional. Spithill and Francesco Bruni were in a slightly slower boat but pushed Team New Zealand to the edge. The Italians led at the halfway point in six races and found some improbable ways to lose.
That would have been hard to take, but Spithill never made excuses and continually believed in his team, while giving due credit to his opponents.
He was often the focus in press conferences and probably did more interviews than anyone else across the summer. But he never declined a request and gave considered answers.
Last Wednesday, as loud celebrations continued at the Team New Zealand base, Spithill was one of the last to depart the media area, alongside Bruni and Sirena.
"Obviously I'm bitterly disappointed with the result and myself but these guys have definitely made us better, and they've pushed us to a limit," reflected Spithill. "Every day because of that we've had to grow. Anytime you get to go against the best in the world, in a game you love. It's not a bad day."
He had also enjoyed the reception from local fans.
"I've always found Kiwis to be extremely passionate sporting fans," said Spithill. "Obviously being a Wallabies supporter, I've known that for a long time now, but Kiwis in general, they show a lot of sportsmanship.
"From my experience, they respect someone that will go out there and fight to the very end and leave nothing in the tank."
And Spithill wants another crack, wherever the next regatta is staged.
"I love the game," he said. "I love competing - really that's what gets me out of bed every morning."