x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 20 July 2017

Diary: Team tries to get wind back up their sails

Sandra Lanedoes her best not to distract the former star members of TeamOrigin as they fight off the elimination threat.

A crew waits in the transfer boats.
A crew waits in the transfer boats.

The talk this morning is all about fish - and who has caught the most and biggest while waiting between races. What had begun as a humorous diversion seems to have become a bit of a competition, with Peter Reggio, the principal race officer, allegedly catching seven yesterday. Even being so close to the city, Auckland's outer harbour is full of fish. I'm on one of TeamOrigin's chase boats, following the British team as it heads out to the race course. It's a tense day for the Brits, as they stand a real risk of being eliminated from the series after two losses yesterday. (Never mind the fact that the second of those races, against Artemis, was the most aggressive, exciting race of the series, with protest flags galore from both sides.) Today, however, the team is in sober, focus mode and so the original plan to take me on their coaches' boat has changed since any distraction is too much of a distraction. Having coaches on the water is fairly new to sailing - unlike football, for example, where they have always been a constant presence at the edge of the field, gesticulating, grimacing and occasionally looking very pleased with themselves. I never did find out exactly what TeamOrigin's coaches do while their boys are racing but I'm sure it's none of the above.

We're bouncing around out here today: there's a stiff breeze and whitecaps all over the choppy water. A squall passes, wiping out the sun, whipping up the wind, then disappearing as quickly as it came. Whether it's something TeamOrigin's coaches said or not, as soon as the 10-minute gun fired Ben Ainslie and his crew get serious, turning the boat in tight circles around All4One, determined to get the advantage at the start. It's astonishing to see such big, powerful boats being manoeuvred like the Lasers that Ainslie sailed to Olympic gold. All the more impressive with today's wind whipping the water up over the boats' bows. It could almost be a visit from the Fremantle Doctor, which made the 1987 America's Cup in Perth so memorable. Ainslie is just one of the stars that have been packed into TeamOrigin since it was established in 2007 by Sir Keith Mills. There's Iain Percy and his Olympic teammate Andrew Simpson, Mike Sanderson, who has won just about everything there is to win on the water... the list goes on. Today they live up to their credentials and sail a great race to ensure that they stay in the competition.

On the radio we hear James Spithill, fresh from winning the 33rd America's Cup at the helm of BMW Oracle: "At this stage of the regatta anyone could win.... they key is to create momentum but not peak too early." Looks as if that's what TeamOrigin is working on. At the end of the day we troop over to the Maritime Museum where the Auld Mug is making a guest appearance, courtesy of Spithill and the BMW Oracle team. It's a pretty powerful way of underlining the link between the Louis Vuitton Trophy and the America's Cup (and, by the way, the trophy travels in its own, made-to-measure Louis Vuitton trunk - and does not get relegated to the hold, either). It's strange to be in its presence, frankly, knowing that this ugly piece of overblown Victorian silverware is what drives this whole world on.