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Old Collegian and Oracle Team USA grinder visits Saint Kentigern

October 24, 2013 at 4:16 PM

We were fortunate to have had Old Collegian Joe Spooner, Grinder on Oracle Team USA and winner of the 34th America’s Cup, visit Saint Kentigern on his return home to New Zealand.

Joe was a past pupil of Saint Kentigern and attended the Boys’ School from 1984 to 1985, then moved on to the College in 1986. In 1991, his final year at the College, he was selected as a Prefect and was also a member of the Yachting team.

Along with his family, Joe attended the Boys’ School last week for their mufti day. Donations raised went towards Mercy Hospice in memory of Joe’s Mum Robyn Spooner, a former art teacher at the Boys’ School who recently passed away. Overall the boys managed to raise over $1,400.00.

This week Joe visited the College where he was a guest speaker at the Middle School assembly. Here he spoke with true testimony on never giving up in the face of adversity.

‘Yes,’ he said, looking out across the Sports Centre towards the attentive students, ‘My team did win the last America’s Cup and it was in a very dramatic fashion against an excellent Team New Zealand. In what has been described as the biggest comeback in sporting history, we were looking at defeat in the face.’

‘There were many, many factors that led to us winning this event. It wasn’t just a fast boat, it was exceptional team work, courage, a reliable boat, a lot of good luck, mental strength, confidence and the list just goes on. But at the end of the day the biggest single thing was that our race team had an ability to always believe in ourselves and never give in. As the old colloquialism goes, it aint over till the fat lady sings, and we really proved that.’

Joe recalled his days as a student at Saint Kentigern College when he first drafted a letter to Peter Blake about a job with Team New Zealand - sitting in one of Mrs Little’s Accounting classes in 1990. No, he never heard back from Peter but he never let that get him down.

Throughout school he kept moving throughout the sailing ranks of national youth classes and finished his university degree in 1998, starting out as a professional sailor in 1999. In 1996 he was successful in becoming a member of the New Zealand Olympic squad as a training partner in the Finn class at the Atlanta Olympics.

He has now has competed in four America’s Cups with Oracle racing and Team New Zealand winning two of them. He believes he is probably pretty good proof that you should never give up on your goals because every set back in life can be a step to future success.

Joe detailed the physical extremes of the America’s Cup, and the pressures his team were under as they competed on the fastest sailing boats in the world. Racing at top speeds of 50 knots or 90 kilometres per hour, he described the crew needing to be as strong as Olympic weight lifters and having the agility of gymnasts. On average their heart rates would race at around 90% of their maximum, and over a two race day he would burn approximately 2,500 calories.

Joe concluded his inspirational talk to the Middle School students leaving them with these words of wisdom, ‘We all have ups and downs through our life that we have to deal with, and often it is the failures and challenges that we have over and over again that help us to finally succeed. I really, really believed the challenges we faced as a team, and as individuals in this last America’s Cup helped us rise to the challenge and made us a fantastic team. After all a champion is someone who gets up when he can’t.’

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