Every revolutionary idea has three stages of reaction: 1) it's impossible; 2) it's possible but not worth doing; and 3) I said it was a good idea.
I followed exactly this path with the rather amazing AC75 foiling monohulls buzzing round the Waitematā at breakneck speeds this week.
I've also changed my mind about the boats being ugly. When the design first came out and I saw those protruding appendages, my mind immediately flicked to a picture I once saw of the shovel-snouted lizard. It lives in Africa's Namib Desert where temperatures sometimes climb to 60C. The only way the little lizard can stand on the hot sand is by lifting a front leg and opposing back leg in tandem – which makes it look remarkably like an AC75.
Once launched, the boats looked a different kind of ugly. In a former life, I attended a military exercise in Hawaii during which we were menaced by an Apache helicopter. The Apache has reigned supreme as an attack helicopter for the last 30 years, with a weapons system that gives it about 100 different ways to kill things – and it remains the nastiest, most threatening thing I have ever seen in the air, including flying cockroaches and Aeroflot.
The AC75s look similar: ugly-beautiful but very good at what they do – going like stink. It's too much to call them graceful but, like the ugly duckling, they transform in the water… If it was a car, we'd be salivating over their 0-100km/hr performance; they can go from wallow to what-the-hell-was-that in a very short time.
So, what can we deduce from all the whizzing about the Waitematā this week? The first days of practice on the Cup courses were hugely interesting; most clued-up judges think Team New Zealand have the fastest boat – as they probably should, given the sizeable advantage of writing the rule that created these fascinating boats.
Interesting, but not conclusive. No one knows who is showing how much of their hand yet and how much foxing is going on.
We should also not forget – if only we could – that the 2013 America's Cup in San Francisco showed that boats of such complexity and technology can gain a lot of ground during the regatta, with modifications and the crew learning how to sail them better. So there are maybe only a few speculative thoughts to be made right now:
• Luna Rossa looks the most handsome boat with the most striking livery – but maybe lacks a little speed right now, particularly upwind.
•American Magic emerged on the first practice day with a smaller sail, making it difficult to compare speed with others. The word is they are quick in higher winds but not so good foiling in light airs.
• INEOS Team UK's non-appearance so far has increased rumours they have followed their slow boat in Bermuda with one that sails like a door – but they could be laying a false trail. The talent and money behind this team is vast; they should be Team NZ's biggest threats.
But here's an unusual disclaimer – all of the above points could be about as much use as custard floorboards. There are variables still at play (foils, sails, control systems, weather and more); how an AC75 is performing now will almost certainly not correspond to how it performs later.
The San Francisco cup match was probably the greatest lesson in that regard. Oracle Team USA came back from 8-1 down to pip TNZ 9-8 in that horribly deflating (for Kiwis) regatta before TNZ exacted revenge in Bermuda.
Oracle's 2013 renaissance was data-driven and that's the thing: this is a yacht race, yes, but also a data war. Every little thing affecting Oracle's boat performance was measured digitally; over 300 gigabytes of data was pored over by designers and engineers every night – searching for anything to make the boat go faster the next day, shore crew pulling all-nighters to make the adjustments.
More than 300 Gigs is a shedload of information to process daily but OTUSA's boat had room to improve – especially upwind – while TNZ geared their boatspeed to peak early. Oracle said later they had focused their boat on downwind speed and had to find ways to go faster upwind.
They did – one estimate said the Americans improved by 1.5 minutes upwind in the last 10 days or so of racing. That's a lot for high-speed craft and that plus a whole raft of small boat adjustments, minor on their own but significant as a package, meant they caught and passed TNZ.
It was a different story in Bermuda and you get the feeling TNZ have focused hard on upwind speed this time too. In Auckland, the starts will be upwind. Previously, in San Francisco and Bermuda, the first leg was a reach – meaning a "drag race" to the first mark before the downwind leg, with the trailing boat usually not too far away to make a go of things.
The traditional upwind start could really separate the men from the boys and that crazy sailing term, Velocity Made Good (VMG) – the art of discovering the quickest way to the mark, particularly upwind – will be a key factor.
We'll get our first real look at all this at the Christmas Cup this week. Can't wait.
Enjoy smooth sailing to the Cup with Auckland Transport
• Avoid traffic congestion and parking niggles and download the AT Mobile app to plot your bus, train or ferry ride to race venues before you leave home.
• Make sure your AT HOP card is in your pocket. It's the best way to ride to the Cup
• For more ways to enjoy race day, visit at.govt.nz/americascup