Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Dreams Do Come True

Tuesday, SturgeUrge and I went to San Francisco to watch the first race of the Louis Vuitton Cup Semi-Finals featuring Italy's Luna Rossa Challenge versus the Swedish team, Artemis Racing.

We went with less than our usual pre-trip intel, thanks to the America's Cup's lush but practically impenetrable website, that was holding on tightly to whatever parking info it was hiding.

So we headed across the Bay Bridge and set a course for the Golden Gate Bridge. We hit almost every red light on Van Ness Avenue, before the bridge traffic turns left on Lombard Street, and we went straight down the hill to the waterfront where we turned around and decided to head a little more west towards Chrissy Field...

Through the eucalyptus trees I saw the curved wharf that defines the western boundary of Aquatic Park, just as Urge spied a free four-hour parking space...we took it, and trundled out the wharf to what turned out to be a fine viewing spot!

As it turned out, the racing had been delayed an hour to 1:15PM which allowed the American team, TeamOracleUSA to train with both of their AC72 boats.

You get a fine view from the San Francisco shoreline as the action can be less than a quarter mile from shore! These are big boats, 72ft hulls sporting a 130ft tall wing-sail, that are unbelievably fast on the water...

Or should I say above the water? The designers have added a 'foil' to the bottom tip of each rudder and each daggerboard, that allows these six ton craft to rise above the water with only the foils in the water, thereby reducing the drag to almost nothing, and allowing these yachts to reach speeds of over 40 knots (46mph) downwind!

We were about halfway to the end of the long arc of the wharf, and roughly in the middle of the race course, so we had a view of the boats going both ways...upwind and downwind.

Both TeamOracleUSA boats appeared from the east and put on quite a show with the beautifully illuminated Golden Gate Bridge as a background under high wispy cirrus clouds and the lingering 'marine layer' against a nice blue sky.

Here's TeamOracleUSA up on her foils doing nearly 40 knots in 16 knots of wind. The teams have about 70-80 days training in these boats now, and they're just learning how to sail them, and what the limits are.

Their newest trick is called the foiling gybe...that is making a turn...while up on the foils...while running downwind at speed...yikes! Gybe is Salty Dog for turn, or shift the mailsail from one side to the other.

TeamOracleUSA stayed out training on course until the last possible seconds before Artemis and Luna Rossa began their Pre-Start.

Artemis has only been on the water in their new boat 'Big Blue' for seven training days after suffering a fatal capsize on May 9th that not only killed their Olympic Medal winning sailor Andrew 'Bart' Simpson, but destroyed their first boat, 'Big Red'. Big Blue was launched barely two weeks ago, July 22nd!

Luna Rossa has been training more than 70 days by contrast. Artemis acquitted themselves well, and even won the start. They ran a cautious race and lost by 2 minutes in the 45 minute contest.

The America's Cup website has the blow by blow recap of the first semi-final race.

I snapped plenty of photos:
Pre-Start Action between SWE and ITA
Two minutes before the Start
You can watch the race from 'The Rock'

The television coverage is just great...we marveled at the wild flying the TV helicopter did to get the great shots!

The Louis Vuitton Cup Regatta will decide the Challenger this month, and the America's Cup Regatta will begin in early September. 

As I looked through my pictures and videos, I thought of the late great San Francisco sailor, Tom Blackaller who gave me the dream of seeing the America's Cup contested on San Francisco Bay way back in 1986.

In 1986, Tom was skipper of the 12 meter America's Cup hopeful 'USA' USA 61 was a very fast boat with experimental fore and aft rudders...she turned on a dime, but was prone to control problems (software glitched in the steering system, I think)

USA 61 and Blackaller made it to the semi-finals of the '86 Louis Vuitton Cup, but lost to Dennis Conner sailing Stars & Stripes 87 who went on the wrest the Cup from the Australians sailing Kookaburra 3 at Freemantle.

I remember thinking that if there was just one more week of the LV Cup, Blackaller might have ironed out the problems and been the Challenger...and that the America's Cup might come to The Bay...

Dreams do come true...but not exactly the way you wish for...the technology on display on San Francisco Bay is light years ahead of the budding innovation on the single-hull 12 meter America's Cup Racers of 1986. Tom is surely smiling down on this Regatta!