It only takes one change

Jon Swift

Jon Swift

I freely admit to knowing less about yacht racing than I do about nuclear physics, but even from a pinnacle of ignorance, you have to celebrate sporting excellence.

And there can be few out there who have followed the America’s Cup and the extraordinary turnaround of fortunes of the holders Oracle Team USA.

Two points down before a sail was hoisted in anger, and railing 8-1 in the best of 17 series to Emirates Team New Zealand a week ago, it looked all over for the Americans.

But in what must rate as one of the great comebacks of global sporting endeavour, back they came and snatched the 162-year-old event from the Kiwis.

It has to rate right up there with the fifth one-day international against Australia at the Wanderers in March 2006 the now legendary 438 game.

Set a then world record 434/4 by Ricky Ponting’s baggy greens, the South African batting took on the challenge.

If one man was pivotal in the South African victory, it was Herschelle Gibbs, whose swashbuckling 175 off 111 balls more than Graeme Smith’s 90 or Mark Boucher’s unbeaten 50 – which included the winning four with two balls left swung it.

Even Ponting, awarded joint match honours with Gibbs, acknowledged that, ceding his shared prize to the South African. As a team effort, it was unforgettable. But so was the come-from-behind triumph by the American sailors.

And yet again, an individual has been cited as the catalyst behind a remarkable turnaround. True, British yachtsman Ben Ainslie is vastly experienced,

with four Olympic golds and 11 world championship titles, but it wasn’t until the sixth regatta that he was called in to replace American John Kostecki as team tactician.

But while Ainslie’s meticulously calculated battle plans are a vast chasm from the cavalier, let’s have a go Gibbs style that sunk the Australians, both changed the course of a competition … and both won a series that logic dictated they should have lost.

I can hope the All Blacks don’t take it personally and take it out on the Springboks next Saturday. The Boks had nothing to do with the America’s Cup.



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