post of the week


This, from our AC Anarchy forum….:

In a recent post on AC Anarchy, Peter Houston says, "Coutts hasn’t given America a reason to care about the team that pretends to be from America." (my italics)

The contradiction of the name given the team by its sponsor with the nationalities of the crewmembers is enough to give viewers who know little of sailboat racing and all everyone knows of his and her homeland a reason to say something’s not right here. A commentator telling a viewer how the boats compete or what happens when USA Bundock, having misfurled their gennaker in the prior turn, rounding the top mark they lose a two-boat length lead on Team Korea says nothing to ease the viewer’s misgiving. So knowing how better to watch the racing will not lead a viewer to accept a truth ACEA needs to convey while the viewer puzzles over accents he does not hear in the speech of fellow Americans: America wins when Oracle Team USA wins. The pretense created by identifying nation with the qualifying club lays bare for all to see when Booth and Jobson tell us one or none of our team is American. This confirms for the viewer he hears the accents right; it does nothing to help the viewer unravel the puzzle the commentators have affirmed is there.

Coming to appreciate what we see on the screen and so on the water will never bridge the divide between representation and reality Spithill and others recreate each time they reply to a question. Sailors are indifferent to a puzzle yacht clubs perpetuate when a member hires the best sailors available for a competition the Deed presents as being among nations. They countenance the usual practice: from the day of the first America’s Cup, a member of an eligible yacht club has purchased skills on the world market, as he can afford them. The way things are in professional sailing satisfies a knowledgeable viewer his team is the best it can be. Other viewers not so knowledgeable do not share the sailors’ perspective: the team flying the stars and stripes should be the best our nation fields. Since the first America’s Cup competition the ear of the sailing community has been dull to a ring those outside their circle hear is hollow. 

Now the Defender and Challenger tell us they intend the race format, the choice of design and much more to attract a new and larger audience to watch their nations’ teams compete. Steeped in other national and international competitions, viewers new to the America’s Cup do not know to think American yacht club or Team Korea while they watch sailors from anywhere race their flagged boat. Sailors from anywhere cannot resolve a competition among nations. Yet the step that would color the competition so as to make it conform with the flags of the boats, removing the incongruity and so making it easy for any viewer to jump to his feet and yell, "We’re winning!," will have to wait on a competition that goes on beyond the reach of any camera. Those who hold a race result dear must be led to recognize that more of what we cherish can be shared but only by risking their confidence in the outcome.  A race among nations takes in a commentator shouting, "The America’s Cup is America’s again!" and he being right. If this idea is to win over an ability to prevail at any cost, and a willingness to pay that cost, the nation we honor must have its moment onstage. I intend this post to be the moment.

Peter Houston points us to a shortcoming in Coutts’ leadership. I believe Peter has given light to a perpetual blindness that is common to sailors of many nationalities. What we have today is pantomime as the Defender and Challenger act on the thinking of many in the sailing community.  The box the sailing community struggles against is more real than the Defender and Challenger can make disappear by authoring a Protocol to mandate a method of measuring LWL, a maximum crew weight and national identity. As Peter Houston tells us, our accepting the authors’ specification for national identity draws us into the author’s pretense. Houston sees the pretense for what it is because he is not so drawn. Unlike most in the sailing community, when he reads what the authors give him on nation along with the requirements for measurement and crew weight, Houston refuses to put what the authors say a competition among nations is in place of a nation that provokes Houston to demand better of the Defender and the Challenger. History shows Houston’s voice to be unique among sailors. He cares that they get the nation part right, as do I. Measurement and weight do not work this way on anyone.

Unlike a measurement method and a maximum crew weight, the final item in my list—nationality—does not read as a third subject the Defender and Challenger are obliged to specify if we are to know how to proceed in the pending competition.  We know the stirring of nation, for good or ill. The authors of the Protocol and the sailing community get the stirring wrong. Sailors, and the Defender and the Challenger are sailors first, must be shown wrong by a means other than citing Schuyler’s work. I intend my example of the viewer brought to his feet by pride in his nation winning to be such a showing.  Try drawing on the pride in him, working from a burgee, a national symbol painted large on the wing and a crew roster. Whatever you bring out in the viewer, it will not endure Spithill’s reply to "How did it go out there today?" and,as we know, pride in nation endures challenges greater than a discordant accent. It isn’t pride you’ve perpetuated in the viewer; it’s your confusion, again. With no change in sailors’ effort to join more people with our national entry in the oldest trophy competition in sport, we will distinguish AC34 and those to follow solely by their positions in a chronology of America’s Cup competitions. Historical orderliness, measurement and weight neither take hold nor do they stir. Jump in.