ACWS Venice, May 17 & 18, 2012
Written May 18, 2012
The event has started and my time has become limited. But I am not complaining ... not one little bit.
There is a bit of a routine that I fall into and the days sometimes blur together. Each morning I get up for breakfast in my little hotel, then figure out how to make my way to the AC Village. On Thursday I decided to take the ferry around the island (instead of walking around and getting lost) to the back entrance, so I headed the one block from my hotel to the ferry stops along the Grand Canal. It was at that moment that I noticed something a little odd in the basin. There was an AC45 out there, but it was one I did not recognize. It's wing and hulls were branded with Red Bull who had stepped on board to sponsor the Youth America's Cup. Thursday morning was the official launch both in Venice as well as in San Francisco. As I watched this boat out there, I noticed that it was heading toward the shore. This seemed odd. With the help of a few tenders, it turned around, and was backed right into a canal. Not just any canal, but what has got to be the most popular canal in Venice as it the the one what goes under the Bridge of Sighs. Countless tourists board gondolas to be romantically rowed under this bridge and possibly share a kiss, but not this morning as there was an AC45 blocking the way. The canal is 10 meters wide. An AC45 is 8 meters wide. She slipped right in there as if this had always been her berth.
What a sight to behold, this newly branded AC45 parked just meters from the Doges Palace along the Grand Canal. Youth sailors arrived, and members of the various AC teams. The Mayor of Venice was there and after all the announcements, speeches, applause and the consumption of lots of Red Bull, the four youth sailors put on their helmets and took the Red Bull boat out for a sail in the basin, along with members of ORACLE Team USA. I had certainly chosen the right way to get "to work" that morning.
By the time the press conference was over, the front entrance to the AC Village had opened, so I made my way to the media center where I learned that I was confirmed on a photo boat for the day. Thursday's racing was out in the Lido. With the backdrop of the alps in the distance, this made for a fine day on the water. Two fleet races, a bunch of match races - quite frankly I can't always keep up with what is going on with the races. There was no radio or "live line" on the photo boat so you watch the races "old school" which was fine with me. It was a sunny day, the wind was 9-12 kts. and the races were good.
On to Friday, I headed straight to the ferry to get to the village, without the distraction of any AC45's in the basin. That would come later of course. My morning was filled with catching up on emails and what is happening in the world outside of Venice, as well as going to the pre-race briefing hosted by Iain Murray. He let us know that the wind would be from 140 deg, currently at 7 kts and would build to about 10 kts for the day. More importantly, racing would take place on the "inside" course, which meant inside the basin. From a photo perspective, this was tremendous news! The wind angle was perfect for racing too as it was heading straight up the canal.
I made it onto a photo boat again and could hardly stand the anticipation to get out there. Again, for you sailing fans, you'll already know the score and the highlights of what happened. What I was not prepared for was the FANS. Thousands upon thousands of people were out. For the entire length of the course on the shore side, there was not one spot along the waterfront that was empty. On the water, they had issued over 2,000 permits for spectator boats and on Friday were expecting about 800 boats. Well, I think they underestimated by far. I think that all 2,000+ were out there. And everyone behaved - stayed behind the lines, etc. As if this was not enough, there was a HUGE floating grand stand right at the 50 yard line of the course. It was PACKED. How does one get to a floating grand stand? Remember that this is Venice - a city full of boats.
The two Luna Rossa boats had a fabulous day on the water. I didn't have to even watch the races to know when the Luna Rossa boats were near because the roar of the fans was deafening. Horns. Cheers. Hollering. More horns. Every time they passed by - and then to have them WIN! I'm surprised that the sailing fans of SF were not awoken by the sound. I couldn't help but cheer for the Luna Rossa boats, getting caught up in the excitement that was all around me.
Back at the AC Village at the end of the day and more fans lined the Arsanele basin to await the victors. The village was simply alive with activity. Friday night, to start off the weekend, there was a band playing on the floating jumbo tron/ stage until late into the night. For me, it was time for yet another late night dinner and bed in preparation for the last two days of racing.