We have received a most remarkable press release from China Team competing in the recent America's Cup World Series event in Plymouth. The regatta itself was a spectacular success by all accounts, with winds gusting up to 27 kts, three capsizes on one day of racing, crowds of spectators on Plymouth Hoe – the lot. Three cheers, and I wish I had been there. Reports pictures and video below.
The press release in question reveals that China Team now has a former professional basketball player in the crew. We can only guess that they did not try to recruit one of the many recent Olympic and Asian Games hopefuls discarded by the national sports programme. The basketball player, Ma Jian, came up with some amazing statements at a quite breathtaking level of condescension. “I never realised how different this would be to basketball...” (Well yes, the floor moves for one thing). “This sport is a lot more complex than basketball...” (Correct. Judging by the score lines, basketball is far too easy.) “This sport requires more than discipline, it requires skills that most professional athletes do not have...” (sailors know that it is a ‘thinking' sport, more tactically demanding than running in a straight line.)
Presumably there is some pr value inside China in putting a recognisable face on the boat, but it certainly seems a shame that while there are, undoubtedly, sailors in China waiting in the wings, a plum job goes to someone from another sport. Now I understand why I never made it to the top in the world of sailing – I'm not 6' 7” and I never played basketball.
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