….you’d rather be with this team on this boat – Emirates Team New Zealand – even if it is trailing the competition.
It sounds clichéd, but New Zealand really is the winner in this 34th America’s Cup regatta.
Two (now) well-matched vessels of unprecedented design genius, showcasing the best of New Zealand ingenuity and sailing mastery to the world; more importantly (for the collective good) parading our technological brilliance in front of the world’s wealthiest, in a way that has nothing to do with sheep or cows.
Something about being a New Zealander means we prefer to win through sportsmanship, not gamesmanship. We would rather win in an way that is sustainable and that we can be proud of than ‘at all costs’. When it comes to gamesmanship, we accept that the Aussies have that trophy well locked up. (George Gregan…….Glenn McGrath….and now one James Spithill.)
But when it comes to grit and relentless effort against the odds, true New Zealanders, those who put nationhood first, have that trophy well locked away.
Consider how we:
- Box above our comparative weight in world rankings
- Never have the same budget nor sophisticated resources as the other guys (piece of 4 by 2 and number 8 wire)
- Have to forage to even show up at the start line (think of Rob Hamill and Phil Stubbs knocking on doors for funding when they should’ve been training)
- Are under-capitalised in most business sectors (which accounts for our productivity rankings)
- Are able to crawl back from the brink even when the country loses faith and turns against us (think of Hamish Carter and his amazing comeback in Athens)
- Don’t use a postponement card even when we can and probably should – because we want to be able to look in the mirror and like what we see.
We as a people pay dearly – personally, financially and physically – for what we value most and for our lofty aims. But it is a choice we make over and over, deliberately and predictably. How we deal with disappointment also reveals character. And we are surely being tested on that front.
There is always an easier course that is more lucrative, less gruelling and a lot less punishing. But then we’d have to give up what we value most: being able to look ourselves square in the face and not flinch.
As a wise elder once said: As long as you can put your hand on your heart and say I gave it my all, there is nothing more I can ask.
I think Blakey would be proud of the dignity and mana on display in San Francisco. It is easy to win when you have no competition. It is easy to show up when you are confident. Getting back out there in the face of such fierce and powerful competition takes guts. Our dignity, honour and loyalty are now the trophies at stake.
Of course we want to win. But not at all costs. We want the result to reflect the reality of the competition and right now, we are in competition with a stronger competitor. Yes, it’s a cliché, but New Zealand really is the winner in San Francisco.