Friday, July 6, 2012

Newport - Always Carry a Sharpie

ACWS Newport - Thursday, June 28, 2012
Newport, Rhode Island

Today the event is in full swing - no more practice runs as each race counts for the teams.  The media center is all a-buzz and there is not an empty seat in the place.  I’m glad that I have my spot by the window.  At the media briefing Thursday morning, Iain Murray informed us that there could be up to 13 races on Thursday, between the fleet race and the match racing quarter finals, which are a best of three between teams.  The photo boats would be docking out an hour earlier than they had been on the practice days, and once you’re out on the water, there is no coming back - you’re out there until the racing is finished for the day.  Even for me this was a long day on the water.
The big sailing story of the day was Emirates Team New Zealand (ETNZ) flipping over, and staying over for such a long time.  Much has been written and said about this incident - how it was the first flip with the wing extension - how the wing tip filled with water because it was made from kevlar and there were no blowout holes for the water to escape - how it was an expensive day with the loss of electrical equipment - how ETNZ used their own rescue team and not that of ACRM - and on and on.  But no one was hurt and the teams all worked together through the night, borrowing bits and pieces from around the park to get ETNZ back on the water the next day.  Throughout this series, every boat that has retired early from a day's racing due to breakage or an incident has returned to racing the next day and ETNZ was no different.
Otherwise, Thursday’s racing was really great with a breeze at 16-17 knots.  It was nice to see both ORACLE Team USA boats progress to the next stage of match racing and equally exciting to see Team Korea beat Spithill in a match.  But it was a long day on the water and by the time the last match finished I was ready to get back to land.
Our boat docked at the VIP drop off near the point of Fort Adams.  The Media Mixer was happening there at the point so I decided to stop by and hear what the skippers had to say about the day.  As I waited patiently for Russell Coutts and Jimmy Spitthill to finish their interviews I noticed that a small group of kids and fans had gathered around me.  A little girl turned to her mother asking for a pen.  Her mother dug in her purse and couldn’t find one.  I remembered that I had a few sharpies in my bag and gave one to the little girl.  With her hat in one hand and my sharpie in the other, she waited with me and sure enough both Russell and Jimmy signed her hat.  Another brief moment on the part of these skippers that so inspired this little girl.  She was grinning from ear to ear, gripping that hat as if she had just won the America’s Cup trophy itself.   I let her keep the sharpie.
I didn’t have much time that afternoon in the media center as I had been invited to Harbour Court for dinner that evening.  I had seen that beautiful mansion perched on the hill each morning and evening as I took the ferry back and forth between Newport and Fort Adams, so when I was invited to dinner there, no matter how quick a turn around I needed to make, I was going to make it happen.  After a quick shower and change back in Newport, I made it up to Harbour Court just in time for cocktail hour on the lawn.  Shortly after arriving, a few adirondack chairs opened up so we took the opportunity to delay our dinner long enough to enjoy sitting at the top of the hill, gazing out over Narragansett Bay.  As we sat there, we watched the sun slowly dip down in the sky, behind the AC45’s that seemed to be standing at attention at Fort Adams.  The cannon sounded and everyone at Harbour Court stood absolutely quietly as the flag was lowered.   The afterglow from the sun filled the twilight sky and I couldn’t help but wonder as I stood where so many sailors from the 12 meter class had also stood over the years, if they had been won over by this new class of America's Cup boat.  One thing that had certainly not changed with this ACWS was the history, ritual, and ceremony that is Harbour Court and the New York Yacht Club.  I was honored to have been invited. 
We dined under that green and white awning that you must be able to see for miles.  This was my first time at Harbour Court, and I felt as though I was being given the full treatment to experience it all.   After dinner I was given a bit of a tour around the mansion.  At every turn I was hardly able to take it all in - the half hulls in the library, the classic books on the shelves, the models and artwork in the hallways.  Then, as I was about to leave, I noticed the 1/2 hull over the fireplace in the entryway.  It was the Yacht America of course.  What other yacht could grace such an iconic spot and I had to pause for a moment of reverence.  I felt as though I had come full circle - from the AC45‘s that morning back to the original Yacht America that night.  What a great day and a perfect evening and this was only day one of the official event.  
More photos from today can be found HERE

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