America’s Cup Spectating
Hubby and I have been lucky enough to experience America’s Cup spectating in two different countries.
And let me just say, we are not sailors. I wouldn’t even know where to start.
We don’t live remotely near a coastline.
Maybe that’s what sucked me in? The talent and expertise required for this expensive competition makes it all the more thrilling. Or maybe it’s the gorgeous weather and a quick trip to the host city…
Anyway, this legendary sailing race was deemed the America’s Cup in 1851 when America won the cup from the British. The trophy didn’t leave America again until 1983. Legend has it, that by that time, the trophy was bolted down and had to be dis-assembled in order to hand it over to the Australian winners that year.
It all started for our family in the fall of 1999 (pre-kids) when we were on a trip around Australia, New Zealand and Tahiti. On one of our days in Aukland, New Zealand, we wandered around the harbor area and saw the promotional signs for the America’s Cup. So we asked around until we found a boat that would take us to the competition out on the water.
Back in those days, they used single hull ships that wove in-between the spectator boats jockeying for the starting line. The competition was not something you could view from the shoreline. So with news crews and other sightseeing boats on the harbor, we became America’s Cup spectators. You could hear the creak of the hull, the shouts of the crew, and the raising of the sails. I was shocked at how close you could get to the boats as they raced. Hubby was hooked.
Fast forward to 2013 and the America’s Cup race was coming back to the United States, for the first time in a long time. The crazy thing about the America’s Cup is that the winner sets all the rules for the next cup. So I could tell you how it all works, but it would just change again. In an effort to raise awareness and spectator numbers, the racing took place in the San Francisco bay, so you could view it from the shore! Talk about a game changer. And the boats were 62 foot catamarans that foiled at speeds of up to 55 mph.
Lat fall, we were so determined to see the racing, we flew out to San Francisco on September 11th and flew home on Friday the 13th. I guess we’re not superstitious! After learning from our experience in two different cities, below are my top tips for attending the America’s Cup:
#1 – Make your attempt to see Americas Cup racing over several days. They can cancel races due to not enough wind, too much wind, you name it. We lucked out that the weather was perfect for racing the one day we were there to watch. I was definitely anxious about the weather right up until race time. Save yourself the stress and give yourself a few days to see this amazing competition.
#2 – Get out on the water during the races. In New Zealand, we were out on a boat and it was magical. In San Francisco we bought tickets to a viewing rooftop. While it was a fun party, the planners were clearly not big sailing afficianados, and the seating for viewing the race was pathetic. We did get a broader view of the entire race, and it was interesting since the race had never before been viewable from the shore. Overall, spectating boat rides are expensive, but well worth it, in my opinion.
#3 – Don’t wait till the bitter end. Although everyone wants to attend the final rounds, there might not be that many races. We saved our trip for one of the last guaranteed scheduled races. If either racing team gets swept (kinda like the World Series for baseball), and the Cup finishes early, you’d hate to have a trip scheduled for the following week.
#4 – Make time to visit the fan village. Several of the piers were set up for an entire fan experience. There were shops, restaurants, wine tastings, viewing platforms, example boats, bars, and even lounging green spaces with big screens for spectators. We even stopped by in the afternoon on a non race day and still had a great time. I’m hoping that the fan village is only improved upon in the new host city in 2017.
#5 – Bring Binoculars. The boats move a lot faster than they used to, so it can be hard to get a good look at the action. I won’t admit that maybe my eyesight and age have anything to do with this tip.
Even though we weren’t out on the water this time during the races, we did get out on the water earlier that morning. We sailed with ACSailingSF on the Oracle single hull boat that raced in some of the 2003 America’s Cup. I’ve written about the ACSailinSF experience (on a different trip) with our son Bo, here.
As our older boat was heading in to the marina area, both new team boats sailed by to get warmed up and set up for the race that afternoon. They came within 50 feet of our boat! We cheered and yelled our support for Team Oracle, and many of them cheered and shouted back. It’s amazing how well the noise carried over the water.
I felt like we were right there with them. We were in an old Oracle single hull boat, they were in the fancy new Oracle catamaran boat. Hubby was grinning from ear to ear. So when we were back at home, watching the rest of the races together via the internet, we felt like we had done our part for the American team. I’m not saying that’s why Team Oracle staged the biggest comeback in sailing history to beat Team New Zealand 9-8. Woohoo!! At least not out loud.
As of this writing, the winners (Team Oracle) have not decided on a city for the next race in 2017. Although, they have narrowed it down to San Diego or Bermuda. I can’t wait for the gorgeous weather and a quick trip to one of those places…