Redefining “Dolly Ride”
I have to tell it to you backwards. It looked like this . . .
But it went like this . . .
5) Im hanging onto a strap on AC45 #4, the Oracle Racing cat skippered by Jimmy (Everyones wearing helmets for a reason) Spithill, and were making tracks toward a destination on San Francisco Bay that will soon be downwind of where we started, but if youre paying attention to this sentence you will notice that I didnt say we are sailing downwind. Most of the time the speedo reads 28-something, and twice we hit 29-something. The afternoon seabreeze is still building.
4) I have my hand on the hiking stick of AC45 #4, and Jimmy Spithill at my elbow is telling me to press a little harder, and a little harder, and were just shy of the Golden Gate Bridge and pressing means to turn the boat farther away from the wind, more toward downwind and back into the bay and Ive finally extricated my foot from the loop in the line that grabbed me when I was crossing the net in the tack and Im pretty sure that Spithill has no intention of allowing me to send this machine down San Francisco Bay with five souls aboard even if they are pros and better paid than I am but he keeps telling me to press a bit more and I can feel the boat accelerating, getting loose like a thoroughbred at a bugle call and Spithill is saying, Dont worry, mate, youre fine, just press a little more and I can see from the action forward that a bigger headsail is in the works and about to be deployed and I dutifully press a bit more and the boat just wants to go and at last the man says, Okay, Ill take it from here. Hallelujah.
3) Were sailing upwind in the Alcatraz Channel on a normal seabreeze day on San Francisco Bay. High teens, low twenties, whats the difference. From my original position, mid-boat, gripping the net, Ive moved aft to take over the helm, to a degree. That is, Spithill invites me to drive and of course I accept, but its not as though hes going to leave me there all alone. The first thing he says is, You have to hike. Which is good. Feet under the straps, the hull fits the body, fits the mission, fits the moment. Lean back. Kinda relax. And I quickly prove what Ive heard before from the likes of Paul Cayard, even from the likes of hacks like me who have traveled this road ahead of me. The boat handles like a dream. With two fingers on the hiking stick, not a lot of tiller movement and no drama at all, were reading 16 knots. Which is where Jimmy handed it over. Im feeling good. Ive eaten a lot of s*** in my life, but never with a s*** eating grin like Im wearing now. Then Murray Jones says, oh so politely, Its good to keep it at 16. Um, right, were reading 15. Nudge her down a bit. Oops. Were reading 17. Murray Jones says, oh so politely, 16 is good. Uh huh. He has his hands on the wing, so to speak, so I am merely steering. Hes driving. We pass through 16. That felt good for a minute or fraction thereof. There it is again. I can almost hold it. But it says a lot that even I could hop aboard and take the helm and keep this beast within a knot, either side of target speed. With the support of five practiced pros, but please, lets not be picky.
2) Im gripping a rail on a fast RIB, and were pacing AC45 #4 upwind at 16 knots. Soon well slow down for my transfer to the raceboat, but for now its a startling sight. Forty-five feet of carbon fiber with a big, black wing carving wind and at the helm is Jimmy Spithill, the quiet Aussie who steered the trimaran that won the Americas Cup in February, 2010 in Valencia, and what is before me now bears witness to the reality of Americas Cup on San Francisco Bay. In the crew I can easily pick out John Kostecki, who sailed the 2010 match as tactician and continues now in that role for Oracle Racing, and yes, I knew John long before he won his first world championship at , I think it was, fifteen. Long before he won an Olympic medal, a race around the world, an Americas Cup. Bringing Americas Cup to San Francisco Bay. Long before Tommy Blackaller made the first attempt. And here it is now, all around me, the familiar background. The blue spires of downtown and the gentle rise of the hills to the west. The red span of the bridge. The open parklands at either hand. The whitecaps rolling in. And this shocking black monster that just screams Americas Cup on San Francisco Bay.
1) I was not prepared for this. Im choking. No, Im crying. The boat driver looks at me. I wipe it away. I say, Just a little spray. Its been a long time coming.
Its been a long time coming.
Its been a long time coming.
On Monday, Olympic gold medalist freestyle skier Jonny Moseley emceed a press conference for Oracle Racing. Jonnys a sailor, and he comes from a sailing family, with pedigree. Of this moment in Americas Cup development, he remarked, It reminds me of what happened in skiing in the 1990s. Faster. Looser. Bigger air.
Nothing special about this pic, but I like the context . . .
At the very time that I was suiting up to sail, the Americas Cup Event Authority held a press conference in the Ferry Building to announce the list of teams for the next Americas Cup, or at least for the World Series tour for AC45s that begins in August in Cascais, Portugal.
China China Team, Mei Fan Yacht Club
France Aleph quipe De France, Aleph Yacht Club
France Energy Team, Yacht Club de France
Italy Venezia Challenge, Club Canottieri Roggero di Lauria
New Zealand Emirates Team New Zealand, Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron
Republic of Korea Team Korea, Sail Korea Yacht Club
Sweden Artemis Racing, Kungliga Svenska Segel Sallskapet
United States ORACLE Racing, Golden Gate Yacht Club, (Defender)
* A ninth team will be announced at a press conference June 23 in Europe