September 18, 2013, 16:40:12
OPINION: If that 2011 Rugby World Cup final was nerve-racking, where does this America's Cup final sit on the anxiety scale?
Two iconic New Zealand teams, two pinnacle occasions. One nation transfixed both times.
I'm looking at what's happening at home from afar, blessed to be at the actual event, and I know the stress levels are pretty big back there.
Believe me, there are enough Kiwis around this place to get a feel for what's happening at home.
This is a home away from home at the moment. The New Zealand presence in San Francisco feels like it could populate a small town down country or an Auckland suburb.
And they are feeling the tension, too.
So are the sailors, that's obvious in our daily dealings with whoever is dished up to the media off the boats after the races.
And not just the Kiwi yachties. New Oracle tactician Ben Ainslie believes the racing is turning into a game of speed chess. You plot your move way ahead of time and hope like heck cir[removed]stances don't change - which they invariably do when the boats are sailed at this freakish pace.
Team New Zealand trimmer Glenn Ashby reckons the final is like climbing a never-ending performance ladder.
I kind of like the board game [removed]ogy - and Ashby's thinking too.
Right now, Team New Zealand's battle to lift the America's Cup is like a game of snakes and ladders.
For every point you move up the board, you can just as easily drop a couple and tumble backwards.
That forces the need to regroup, gather your thoughts and confidence, and start again.
The first race of the final seems an age ago.
It was pulsating, featuring lead changes that had previously been unthinkable, and brought a realisation that is was game-on.
But looking back now, the first phase of the final seems like a doddle compared to the anxiety that has enveloped the last phase of the battle to actually nail this thing.
Oracle's growing competitiveness has seen them win a race or two through their own good work and certainly force an almost-fatal error from the Kiwis to claim another.
The closer Team New Zealand gets to lifting the America's Cup, the harder the assignment gets.
Oracle talked a good fight before last weekend and delivered, winning two of the three races.
It was a reality check for Team New Zealand and they recovered.
But have you?
Was the gritty win in the "great race" of Monday enough to convince us things are back on track?
That race alone was probably equal to the World Cup final because it was soooo close - similar to the one-point victory the All Blacks managed over France for the Webb Ellis Cup.
But as Ashby says, this yachting final is a nine-rung ladder where each step demands better performance from boat and crew.
That's why it's probably feeling tougher than what unfolded at Eden Park two years ago.
Just two more wins. Sure sounds do-able.
Under the present cir[removed]stances with Oracle's rapid improvement and a decent breeze on the forecast it would be arrogant to expect those two victories to come without some suffering.
This is going to be tight. This is going to be tense.
Team New Zealand have a handy six-point buffer, and right now that's about the most-comforting thing about this whole nerve-racking equation.