Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Reflections from the President: My America's Cup Experience

My little grandsons don’t care what boats cost and they don’t yet know the game.  They’ve sailed with me in my Thistle, C Scow, and Laser. But now they’ve seen really, really big cats foiling like rocket ships aimed right at them and the first mark. They noticed and went back to the sand on the beach to play.  The Ellison gamble of bringing the mega-everything Cup races to the San Francisco shore has in fact, reached tens of thousands of spectators. Many must be new to our sport based on what I heard in the shoreline questions and chatter.
My daughter, recently a Californian, has shown more interest in sailing as an adult. She and her husband were enthralled with the whole scene of boats on “steroids”, the technology, and the excitement, and made sure we went back to the amazing weather of the bay and racing at the Crissy Field beach for day two. We had made a decision to experience the America’s Cup “like regular people”, no cost, no frills, no special privilege. Both days we were fielding questions of other spectators, my clothes with the US Sailing logo drawing some attention. Our experience at the free and exceptionally good viewing location got a boost from guys who brought radios to hear the commentary. Some in the crowd were experienced international sailors, a world champion, a Swiss major league sailor, and some rank and file sailors. The ordinary sailors in the crowd included a fellow who gave it up because it got too expensive. I tried to sell him the Hobie 16 that came by. We heard at least five languages on the beach.

My wife made sure everyone in our party had equal time on her birding binoculars. She wanted to know, as is her perpetual advice, “Are they covering?”  
“No, Honey. They are not.”
“Why not?”
“They’re not tacking very well, apparently. And they’re slow. They’ve just got to run for it.”

That was the consensus on the beach Saturday. Later at St. Francis Yacht Club we heard the same conclusions. The expert media commentators seemed to agree with us. A past commodore made us feel welcome. In minutes, we concocted the perfect plan for boats, venues, and rules for the next cup. And Sunday was a better story for Oracle; better speed, better tacking, and a narrow victory after three stunning losses.

We stayed up late Sunday to watch the races again online and marvel at the demystifying digital information that Stan Honey’s team created on screen. The current, the disturbed air, the tracking, the laylines, and more helped my son-in-law see things in new ways, augmenting my previous “insightful” lectures. 

I doubt all this is the sustainable model for the America’s Cup because of the phenomenal expense. I’m glad we were able to see it live because these boats and their crews are amazing. And we can all be pleased that many tens of thousands have been exposed to one extraordinary aspect of our wet and wild sport. And, holy cow, they go almost as fast as the ice boat I sailed at Chautauqua Lake last January.

What a sport!

1 comment:

  1. Tom, thanks for the report from a sailor of fast, light boats. It was straight forward and refreshing, unlike much of the coverage of this very expensive regatta.

    Al Rees
    Lafayette, LA