Cup Magic: Auckland/San Diego 1995 by Susan Battye
“Cup Magic” is one of three new titles in Scholastic N.Z.’s popular “My New Zealand Story” series that uses the point of view of a young person to tell a story relating to a significant event in New Zealand history. As many will deduce from the title, Cup Magic, is a fictional recounting of events around the 1995 America’s Cup challenge when New Zealand became the second country, in the then one hundred and forty-four year history of the race, to beat the USA team and take the cup away from American shores.
Battye uses the point of view of 11 year-old Mike Lucas to tell the story of the build-up to, and race for, the cup. Mike is, at first, upset when his parents tell him that he will be living with his grandparents and changing schools so that his yachting parents are able to work on a new and secret job. However, he finds living with his grandparents has its upside when he is taught how to sail and he makes some firm friends at his new school. When he discovers that his parents are part of Team New Zealand and the challenge for the America’s Cup he finally understands all the secrecy and the many hours his parents have put in to their new job. He gets involved in some of the behind the scenes activities that occur in preparing for a major yacht race and he is very excited when he travels to San Diego with his family to witness the actual cup challenge.
The book is full of interesting details about yachting and sailing in New Zealand as well as facts about the 1995 campaign for the America’s Cup. Battye successfully uses the device of Mike being taught how to sail as a way of including the technical jargon associated with sailing in an accessible way for the reader. Having Mike as the son of parents who are involved behind the scenes of Team New Zealand (as a sail maker and boat builder) is also an effective way of being able to include a lot of information about how the campaign for the Cup went and to include insights into the main events and intrigue associated with the Cup. Through her young narrator Battye captures the excitement that the country felt in the final stages of the challenge and the adulation and euphoria with which Peter Blake, Russell Coutts and the team were greeted when they returned home to victory parades.
As with others in the series, the book is targeted at readers age 9 plus and would be an easy read for many Year 9 and 10 students. The writing is fast paced and is likely to appeal in particular to pre-teen boys and sailing enthusiasts.