Archive for April 2nd, 2008

A curiously empty space in the heart of Manhattan

Wednesday, April 2nd, 2008

empty cup roomI was taken to lunch at the New York Yacht Club today by Ted Carroll of Noson Lawen Partners. By some miracle I happened to be dressed well enough to just scrape in – sans jacket and tie. It’s not the sort of place too many casual NY visitors get to see. Suffice to say, they’re a little on the exclusive side.

After lunch, Ted took me up to the cup room. Or the room that used to be the cup room. You see, there’s a slight problem. No cup. The room was specially built to hold the America’s Cup. It’s perfect, and even has a little viewing platform like the prow of a boat. It’s a beautiful space. And it’s totally empty.

I’m not much of one for nationalistic pride. But I couldn’t resist a little twinge of pleasure recalling that fateful day the Australian boat won the cup after the US had held it for 132 years. Bob Hawke, the Australian Prime Minister, appeared on TV in a bright Green and Gold kangaroo-covered jacket to declare that “any boss who fires a worker for not turning up today is a bum”. It was quite a scene. Good for yachting, I should think, just like when the England cricket team finally beat the Australians a few years ago.

Standing there in the exact spot that the America’s Cup had so immovably and confidently occupied for 132 years was really something. You could almost feel the sense of confusion and cognitive dissonance emanating from that empty space and flowing out to unbalance the entire club building. Ted took photos with his iPhone while I thought of Ozymandias, joked with the staff, and tried to sound like I was from somewhere else.

model roomThen it was upstairs to the banquet hall and model room. There are many hundreds of model yachts on the walls and in glass cases. There are perfect models of every boat to win the America’s Cup, and yes I checked out Ben Lexcen‘s famous winged keel. The accompanying plaque was careful to point out that the boat’s measurements were allowed by the rules. Unwritten: the spirit of yachting itself was shamelessly violated by the genius upstart designer from down under, but, strictly speaking, the boat was legal.

It’s quite a sight.