America's Cup: Winning at all costs

Oracle Team USA won America's Cup yesterday, but only one of the 24-person crew is an American, leaving one mom to field questions from her kids about the value of 'winning at all costs.'

By , Correspondent

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    Oracle Team USA skipper Jimmy Spithill holds up the Auld Mug as they celebrate in the podium after winning the America's Cup sailing event over Emirates Team New Zealand, Sept. 25.
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The USA managed the greatest comeback in the 162-year history of the America’s Cup, beating New Zealand with grit, determination and all the brilliance in sport Americans are known for making Australian, New Zealand, and Canadian moms proud because it was mostly their sons and not ours captaining and crewing the boat.

There was only one American-born citizen on the winning 24-man American boat, Rome Kirby, 24, trimmer/grinder. A grinder is the guy winding the winches to pull in, let out, haul up, or bring down sails. It is the most physically punishing job on a yacht.

“Fellow American, John Kostecki, a tactician, was replaced on the boat by Britain’s Ben Ainsle after Oracle lost 6 of the first 7 races in the series. Since then, Oracle has stormed back to even the series at 8-8,” according to The Wall Street Journal.

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This win gives weight to the expression “to win at all costs” by America once again purchasing national pride.

It’s become a trend here in our nation that when another nation beats us in sport or technology our solution is not to make our own people better by investing in programs here that raise the level of American kids’ performance, but to import and re-label the success we import.

I watched this revelation come to my son Ian, 18, this morning at the breakfast table as we discussed the epic victory after a week of watching the races with his father. We are a sailing family. We lived aboard a 38-foot long Columbia Yawl rig sailboat and later a 37-foot Jim Brown design trimaran when Ian was little. His father is a Laser racer and Ian has spent summers and winters running the committee boat for various races locally.

“Wait, what?” Ian said when I showed him the WSJ story. “Did America just win by beating New Zealand with an Australian captain and mostly New Zealand crew?”

I had found this out from my husband who mentioned it last night after cheering the win. I felt completely had.

Like Ian, I was upset with the “national pride” paradox.

When Ian started asking breakfast table questions, his younger brother Quin, 9, sailed into the conversation.

“So how did America win in this situation if we only had one guy,” Quin asked. Then he answered his own question, “Oh wait, I get it. We win because we bought the best team, because Americans weren’t good enough.”

Ian and I looked at each other in a moment of horror. It was like watching a toddler tumble to the fact that Santa looks an awful lot like his father and the Tooth Fairy resembles mom.

We were watching one light go on and another one go out.

“Mom, seriously, don’t even argue this one because he’s pretty much right,” Ian said. “That’s the message.”

I agree that it’s the message but I do not agree that it’s the truth about our kids and nation.

You can’t convince me that American sailors and captains can’t do this job. The issue isn’t a lack of talent but a lack of investment in that talent.

Also, there is a wealth of technology, scientific, engineering, and sport talent of all kinds in our schools that is going un-tapped because we are not investing in the cultivation and exploration of this natural resource.

If kids were oil-rich land we’d invest in developing them.

Right now I have two sons on rowing teams, one in high school and the other in college and neither is funded by the state or school. The same goes for our sailing teams and many other programs in both sport and education.

We expect our kids to pass standardized tests by teaching to that test instead of investing in good solid education that engages our children in critical and executive thinking exercises.

Then we are upset that this cheap fix isn’t turning out the technology giants that other nations have. So we solve this by importing intellect and tech.

The problem with buying success and outsourcing our thinking and sporting wins is that you need money to do that. By not growing our own crop of talent in sport and business we are racing to failure on a global scale.

I want my kids to be proud of American achievements. More importantly, I want them to know that they can be the ones who will be on the playing field.

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