Saturday, September 7, 2013

And so it begins ...

34th AC - San Francisco, CA
Saturday, September 7, 2013
I woke up Saturday morning with a feeling of such excitement and anticipation.  For almost three years I had been waiting for this day.  I had traveled around the globe to attend events leading to this day.  Activities here in San Francisco over the last two months had been just about a daily buildup to Saturday.  This was the day the 34th America’s Cup would begin.  

The “September Showdown” really began for me on Thursday night when I attended the America’s Cup Party to kick off the event.  I received my invitation just that morning and was thrilled to have been included, even at the last minute.  The venue was Pier 19 which I thought was a bit odd as this was the same spot where I would park my Vespa when heading to the Media Center at the America’s Cup Park at piers 27-29.  I got dressed in a blue sequined cocktail dress, called an UBER and headed to the pier.  

When I arrived at the pier, instead of walking into a huge enclosed parking lot, I found myself walking into what felt like a garden party.  There was green astro-turf covering the asphalt.  Girls twirling rice paper parasols wearing 1920’s bathing outfits (there was way too much material to them to call them baiting suits) greeted me with a smile, as a waiter stood behind with a tray of champagne in wide mouthed coupe glasses.  It was as if I was wandering through someone’s lawn, with patio furniture for seating and strings of lights above.  H’ors d’oeuvres were being passed and my champagne glass never seemed to be empty.  As the night progressed, so did the party as black curtains were drawn back to reveal a second area further down the pier.  This area had food stations, a band, 1920’s decor and flapper dancers for entertainment.  Huge deco style lamps lit the area with blue up-lighting along the exposed walls of the pier.  White sofas and chairs were set up to create sitting areas along with larger tables and chairs.  One final reveal exposed a dance floor with a DJ and huge disco balls.  There was a large round bar in the middle, and circular borne sofas for seating.  Cigarette girls with trays filled with colorful Chinese take-out boxes filled with candy instead of cigarettes, wandered through the room handing out their sweet treats.  It was simply amazing how the parking lot on the pier had been transformed.  It was a great party and a great way to kick off the event.

Friday was spent getting all things non-America’s Cup related off my plate.  By Saturday morning I was filled with anticipation and ready.

A full schedule was distributed for both the America’s Cup Park at Piers 27-29 and the America’s Cup Village at Marina Green.  I had been confirmed to be on a photo boat for Saturday which was adding to my excitement.  First up for me was the media briefing with Regatta Director Iain Murray and America’s Cup Event Authority CEO Stephen Barclay.  At the briefing everyone seemed to be in a good mood and even the most pessimistic members of the international media seemed to be excited.   Next was the dock out show at the public stage.  The national anthems for each team were played, the sailors were paraded to the stage and then were whisked off on their team chase boats to head to the race course.  Flags of all sizes were being waved by any means possible and the fans were ready for racing to begin.  So was I.

Out to the race course I went on the media boat.  We would be near the start line and first reaching mark.  The weather was perfect, if not a little warm for San Francisco.  Winds were in the 14-17 knot range, and before I knew it the gun went off and the boats were racing.

Three years of waiting for this one moment, to hear this particular gunfire.  Before I lifted the viewfinder of my camera to my eye, I just took it all in.  I found that I was holding my breath when the gun went off and two ten story tall hard-winged catamarans came charging directly toward me at speeds never before seen in the America’s Cup history.  There was nothing between me and them.  This was as front row as anyone could get and it was magnificent.  



I lifted my camera, put my finger on the trigger and fired away.  Ok, maybe I didn’t breathe just yet, until the boats a few seconds later rounded that first mark, were off down the course and I lowered my lens.  It was finally here.  America’s Cup racing on the San Francisco Bay had begun.  

Day one was all about Emirates Team New Zealand.  At the press conference following racing both skippers looked exhausted.  Neither one was joking as much as they usually did, nor were there the usual jabs between them.  Champagne was served after the press conference to mark the start of the event, then media representatives were all hard at work getting their stories written or their photos downloaded.  Outside the AC Park was still all a buzz with fans, family and friends milling about, possibly heading to that evenings concert at the America’s Cup Pavilion, or just watching the race replays on oversized screens while sitting on oversized beanbag chairs.  

Overall for me the day was bitter/sweet.  I’m sad to know that the end is so near, but seeing that first match up between ETNZ and OTUSA with my own eyes, sharing the same waters with these sailors, and being able to experience this with so many friends and fans has been amazing.  And this was just day one.

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