Thoughts on the America’s Cup by Susan Grimsdell

I thought it was about time I watched a race in the lead up to the America’s Cup, having contributed to it by being a ratepayer and a taxpayer, and considering that a lot of people seem to think it’s something special.

USA and NZ lookalike boats

Lookalike craft

The setting is lovely – Auckland Harbour, so they got that right.  However, the first thing that took away from it being interesting is that the boats are clones of each other.  They are painted different colours and have different words plastered all over them, but otherwise they seem identical.

First, I saw two of them circling around, waiting to start.  I couldn’t see anything much for the spectator to get excited about there.  Then the clock ticked down to zero and they were off.  One of them crossed the start line a second or two before the other and away it went down the first lap, increasing its lead minute by minute.  It stayed ahead all the way to the top of that leg, turned around the marker buoy and set off again, still ahead.

No contest

NZ’s boat skimming along past the Auckland skyline

The second boat trailed behind.  Sometimes it was off to the left, sometimes off to the right but everyone knew it didn’t have a hope in hell of ever catching up.  The race was decided the moment the first boat crossed the start line, in fact.  Barring a catastrophe such as one of them capsizing, the race was over as soon as it started.  They had to see it out though, so up and down the course they went, leader, follower, six times – each lap exactly the same as all the others.

To me, what really killed any interest or excitement was that the boats were like plastic toys in the bath.  There were no spinnakers, no heeling over, no precarious hanging out over the side of the boat, and it seemed to me, no possible mistakes other than a capsize.  Just teams of men grinding away, putting in the time, doing the laps, getting through it.

Crowds watching a race on a screen at the Viaduct

The power of persuasion

What amazes me is that people claim to find this tedious ploughing up and down a calm sea exciting.  So much so that they willingly allow Council and government to spend tens of millions of our dollars on it.  Let’s not forget the competitors are all multi-millionaires, and they are doing what they like to do best in the whole world, and they could afford to pay for their own boat races without even noticing the tiniest dent in their wealth, but they are smart enough to get mugs like us to pay for it instead.

The Pied Piper of Hamelin leading the children out of the town

Why do so many go along with it and play their part – talking about it, gathering together to watch it and generally acting as if it mattered to them.  It’s all about the power of persuasion.  Humans as a whole can be persuaded to do anything.  Even to willingly sit in front of their TVs on a gorgeous day watching toy boats, or at another extreme, storming the Capitol of the USA believing they could take over the government.  It seems we are a very impressionable species, and we feel better when we’re in a herd doing exactly the same as other people.

Until we start to look at things with our own eyes, and critically evaluate what we see – think for ourselves in other words – we will be pawns in the hands of anyone who wants to manipulate us for their own ends.  And it will continue to cost us.  Dearly.

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