The San Francisco waterfront Americas Cup area is fantastic. Huge screens are placed in front of an astro turf park that has big Oracle and Team NZ pillows for fans, friends and families to see all the action while basking in the sun.
There are several bars and restaurants on site as well as informative and interactive displays explaining everything from the basics of sailing to how these new extreme flying boats are conceptualized and manufactured.
Just feet away are the two AC 72′s moored nightly for all to view…and they are a sight to behold. With even the slightest gust of breeze they sway about on the moorings like horses in their pens waiting to run the track.
The amount of New Zealanders here is impressive to say the least. If I were to guess I’d say 40% of the two thousand fans on the pier were Kiwis and they could not have been more enthusiastic , loud and in praise of Team NZ.
For sailing crazed Americans, like me, it was a rush to be amongst like minded sailors and to be feet away from the action. Sure enough as the teams walked to and from the boats they were accessible, and kind enough to high five the crowds; unlike many professional athletes that seem emotionally removed from their fan base.
Growing up on a progression of boats from prams, to sunfish, Lasers, Hobie Cats, 12 meters and maxi yachts, I’ve always had a “need for speed” as we all do (well some crazy people like me do at least). The speeds these boats go is mind boggling to see in person. One quote I heard was “it’s like getting sprayed with a fire hose while sailing
at 40 knots”…
That is no exaggeration. The 72s fly by so fast that the chase boats have a 40 foot rooster tail just trying to keep up. It’s quite evident from the races that I saw it’s a somewhat death defying game of balance and bravado. One false move, like an unknown Oracle crew hitting the button to lower the windward wing, can be catastrophic and without milliseconds reaction time to remedy it, it’s game over.
Oracle lost the lead in race three and what was somewhat obvious is if you lose the lead upwind , you’re hard pressed to gain downwind.
Race 4 had the wind building into the 20′s and the whitecaps across the bay showed a lot of current. Oracle seemed to go faster in those conditions and Spithill gained confidence. In the post race conference admitted they needed a win to keep their spirits up.
One note that both skippers said is they can hear the crowd cheers as they sail by…so let’s hear it people!