Sunday, September 15, 2013

In To The Second Weekend …

Thursday, Friday & Saturday
September 12-14, 2013
ETNZ - 6

One of the great things about having the America’s Cup in San Francisco was that instead of me having to travel, the world was traveling to me.  Today this held particularly true as I had a house guest arriving at some point during the day.  Fortunately this was an extremely good friend and one who knew that I would be very busy during the America’s Cup events.  I had been so busy in fact, that I really didn’t feel as though “Hotel Hoke” was in its true guest-ready state.  I had mailed a set of keys to my friend and had to just hope they would have a blind eye to my not-so-guest-ready home.  

As I walked into the media center that morning, I noticed a certain camaraderie between the sometimes harsh international media.  Just as one walks into their office each day, everyone here also said hello or good morning as writers and photographers arrived.  It is all very cordial and there are even water coolers where I noticed people would actually gather to chat.  There was also a Nespresso “cafe” set up in the media center.  You could always tell the new people as they tried to figure out how to make coffee, which after one demonstration was extremely easy - drop in your coffee pod color of choice and push a button.  Yes, this was certainly everyone’s office away from the office.

It was not long before word started spreading around the media center about ORACLE Team USA’s new crew list which included Sir Ben Ainslie as the tactician.  American John Kostecki was out as the rumors had foretold.   As luck would have it, today I would be out on the water with the BAR (Ben Ainslie Racing)/ JP Morgan group from the previous night’s dinner taking more photos.  Unfortunately luck was not on the side of ORACLE Team USA as Emirates Team New Zealand won both races that day, but that didn’t dampen the excitement of the visiting VIP’s watching Sir Ben’s first day racing in the America’s Cup.  Sir Ben was not at the press conference that afternoon as many had hoped.  Instead ORACLE Team USA sent Kyle Langford with Jimmy Spithill.  I guess my time with Ben was over.  The score was now ETNZ 6 and OTUSA (-1) so even with Ben on board, things were NOT looking good for ORACLE Team USA.

That evening I was double booked between the Commodore’s Gala at the Golden Gate Yacht Club and a dinner at the St. Francis Yacht Club with some of the media team.  I sprinted home for a quick change into a black formal gown, making excuses to my house guest who was relaxing on the sofa, making me quite jealous.  After a short stint at the Golden Gate Yacht Club, I headed to the St. Francis in my formal attire.  Ok, so I was just a little over dressed for dinner, but I had warned my host.  Since it was a Thursday, the Grill Room at the St. Francis was packed with kite boarders (both Johnny and Erika Heinekin were there - both world kite racing champions), race committee members, and various America’s Cup and yacht club members.  People were in all types of attire so I actually didn’t look that out of place.  When I joined my dinner party, someone remarked “You look like you just came from a funeral” I assumed referring to the fact that I was wearing a formal black dress.  Well, I’m not exactly sure who wears ball gowns to funerals so I replied “Well, I guess in a way I have come from a funeral as I was just at the Commodore’s Gala at the Golden Gate Yacht Club.”    This relieved the tension at our table as the remaining guests laughed at my analogy.

We sat in the upstairs dining room at the St. Francis for a lovely meal and our dinner conversation was a mixture of America’s Cup history and current events.  The whole club was packed.  We even had members of Luna Rossa at a table next to us celebrating one of their team members’ birthdays.  Overall a very festive evening.

The day after funerals and black dresses was Friday the 13th.  This was a day spent with my house guest, who had very graciously stocked my refrigerator for me while otherwise maintaining the blind eye.  We ran errands, did some laundry but no grocery shopping and got caught up on each other lives.  There was also lots of talk about the America’s Cup.

On Saturday morning I realized that not only the America’s Cup but this entire journey for me could all be over this weekend.  Emirates Team New Zealand was on a roll and would only need to win three of the four scheduled races that weekend to claim the cup.  It was very possible.  Already the rumors were starting at the media center about the 35th America’s Cup ... a 75% Nationality Rule ... monohulls instead of multihulls ... allowing boats to be built in any county ... etc.  I don’t know where people were coming up with these ideas but I knew I loved the rumor mill!  

During the morning media briefing Stephen Barclay, CEO for the America’s Cup Event Authority, mentioned that they were hoping for 50,000 people over the weekend.  They had 46,000 during the first weekend and he too thought this weekend it all might be over.  However, the forecast was for the winds to be fairly strong on both Saturday and Sunday and there would be an ebb tide during racing.  Iain Murray, the Regatta Director, was doubtful that two races would happen on Saturday due to the weather conditions and the set wind limit.  Here’s how it works with calculating the wind limit.  The overall limit is 23 knots.  If there is an ebb tide, then they subtract the ebb current from the wind limit.  If there is a flood tide, then they add the current to the wind limit.  Today’s forecast was for 22+ knots.  We were looking at an ebb tide of 1.3 at the time of the first race and 0.4 for the second race.  Therefore the wind limits would be 21.7 knots and 22.6 knots respectively.  I could see why Iain Murray was doubtful.  The winds had been this high before, and this was quite typical for San Francisco at this time of year, but with the ebb tide these would be the roughest conditions we had seen thus far during America’s Cup racing.

The race committee was able to start the first race of the day as the winds stayed under the limit.  I was on land at the America’s Cup Park at Pier’s 27-29 watching with thousands of fans, mostly Kiwi’s.  We were all watching on the big screens when Emirates Team New Zealand almost flipped over.  You could have heard a pin drop on those piers as Emirates Team New Zealand slowly started to go over, then paused at that tipping point on a wing and a prayer.  Then (by the hand of Sir Peter Blake?) the boat came back down with both hulls safely in the water in her upright position.  ORACLE Team USA went on to win that first race of the day and race two was abandoned due to high winds.  At the press conference that afternoon, Dean Barker was the one being asked all the questions.  Up until now, Jimmy had been in the hot seat with the international press. 

The score was now ETNZ 6 and OTUSA 0 (remember that ORACLE Team USA had a two point penalty going into the regatta, so even though they had now won two races, their score was just at zero.)  The first team to win nine races would win the Cup.  Emirates Team New Zealand still needed to win three more.  Two races were scheduled for Sunday, and Monday had been officially changed from a reserve day to an off day so no racing.  This meant that the event would continue until at least Tuesday.

I must admit I was glad it would be going on just a little bit longer as I wasn’t ready to have my adventures end.

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