Wethog - I understand where you are coming from.
ETNZ kicked into overdrive and became the team that others used as a standard.
I believe that most people - Kiwis included (interestingly enough .... ) figured that after OR won the cup in the big try, with wing sail and all, that the most obvious move for OR was to use their research and expertise in wing sail design to keep ahead of the field.
Frankly, it stuck out like a dogs goolies.
Up to that point, it had always been monohulls. Winning in a big multihull with wing sail, hell, it's a no brainer to retain the same format and keep ahead of the fleet. The advantage was huge. Bloody ginormous. (Now that's interesting - spell check didn't try to correct that puppy).
OR was the standard, and it wasn't until some twat posted a video of ETNZ foiling that the cat was out of the bag. That was the big screw up. Allowing it to go pubic. They should have had the NZ Air Force keeping people away. Okay, maybe not. I believe they still run Tiger Moth bi planes ....
Still, you get my drift.
I get your drift, and I agree. Prior to the OR1 PP and photo/video proof of ETNZ foiling it was universally assumed that OR had a huge advantage and the rest were desperately trying to catch up, but after the OR1 PP and ETNZ foiling it was a 180 degree shift to ETNZ. And it stayed that way until 8-1 in the finals.
The thing is...ETNZ looked as strong as they did because the standard of the Louis Vuitton challenger series was sorely lacking. Niether ETNZ or OTUSA had any idea of their relative performance against each other. It was only made evident in the first few races that the boats were "even at best"
In terms of OTUSA being the "underdog" and "playing catch up" that was never the case.
The fact that OTUSA was able to turn their fortunes around with "sheer hard work" showed that the OTUSA design was always even or faster than ETNZ. You can work as hard as you want, and "Believe in yourself" all you want, but if the tool isn't up to the job, it's all for nothing (as proved by ETNZ).
The ability to foil first by ETNZ was IMO was a calculated decision between putting it out there early to give the team more time to adjust to a completely new form and discipline of sailing and being careful not let it be seen too early to limit the ability of other teams to "copy" the idea.
IMO ETNZ could not have kept it secret for much longer than they did without sacrificing learning time with the boat, remembering ETNZ were until then, a monohull sailing team. Sailing a large multihull was brand new to most of the Kiwi team, let alone learning to fly the AC72. IMO the only way they could have kept it from OTUSA would've been to not have foiled until they got to San Francisco. By then OTUSA would have been foiling anyway, and the Kiwi's would've had a much shorter period to learn the ins and outs of foiling.
And as long as there was an Oracle spyboat trailing closely behind in Auckland, they could not keep it a secret from the opposition. OTUSA had always planned to foil, as seen by the adapted AC45's. The kiwi's just showed the Oracle team 1: It was actually possible, and 2: How to foil properly and what was needed to sustain stable flight for long periods of time.
With the addition of OTUSA being able to see and make use of the challengers course data during racing, and the challengers not being afforded the same opportunity, this made it even more of an uphill climb for ETNZ than it originally was.
At the end of the day, OTUSA had the faster boat, and they won, just as GD and DB had said all along. But never at any stage was OTUSA ever an underdog. The pitchpole was a setback, but through the amount of resource OTUSA had at their disposal, they were able to rebuild both boat and wing, while modifying both boat and wing, while building a second boat, modifying that boat, building 2 more wings and maintaining at least four AC45's. Every other challenger struggled to get one boat, one team on the start line while OTUSA were able to get two fully operational fast boats and teams out on the water. This proves how much of a head start and advantage OTUSA had.