Thursday, September 19, 2013

Match Point Brings On Groundhog Day

Sunday & Monday
September 17-18, 2013
ETNZ - 8 Match Point

I awoke on the morning after the Journey concert without exactly feeling as though I had had a day off.  I admit I was a bit dusty, but I was still at the media center by 8:00 am.  My computer  seemed to be a little dusty that morning as well as it kept telling me that my start up disk was full and it was being extremely slow in downloading the photos from last nights concert.  My computer and I were both operating on the same level that morning.  

During the morning chatter around the media center I predicted that due to too much wind there would only be one race and that Emirates Team New Zealand (ETNZ) would win that race.  However, others had heard of further modifications to ORACLE Team USA (OTUSA) and that she would be even faster. We shall see.

In the media briefing Regatta Director Iain Murray said the forecast was for 25 knots.  The base wind limit was 23 knots and we were still dealing with the ebb tide which would further reduce the wind limit for each race.  The media briefings were held at 9:45 am.  At 11:00 am that morning the Race Committee boat would head out on the bay to check out the conditions.  We were told that by 11:30 am the Regatta Director MAY make the call to have the AC72’s stay on their moorings.  Safety first - we all understood that.

That morning the photographers had an additional briefing.  This was to let us know the plan for the awards ceremony.  It was possible, but not probable because of the predicted wind that day, that ETNZ could win the Cup today.  We were all getting ready.   Photographers received a special sticker on their accreditation badges which would grant them access to exclusive areas during the awards.  I admit the prospect of this was very exciting.

By late morning they ended up sending out the AC72’s and I was on a photo boat, but they were not able to get a race in that day.  In lieu of the usual press briefing with the sailors the media team arranged to have some of the boat designers from each team at the media center for a press conference which was quite interesting.

The day ended early and I was grateful for that.  As I drifted off to a much needed full night of sleep, I had this feeling that there was some sort of change or shift coming.  Was it that it would all be over the next day?  I couldn’t quite put my finger on what was gnawing at me but as I drifted off to sleep that night I was relieved to know I was confirmed on a photo boat for the next day - whatever that day would bring.

It was on Wednesday that the days started to feel a bit like Groundhog Day.  Today we would try again for Races 11 and 12 which had both been postponed yesterday.  I was still plagued by that odd feeling from the night before and I still wondered if the event would all be over today.  Did I really want it to end?  Not really.

At the media briefing Regatta Director Iain Murray was confident that they would get two races in today.  The forecast was for about 15-18 knots of breeze which was a fair amount below the set wind limit of 23 knots.  Today was do-or-die for OTUSA as ETNZ was only two points away from wining it all.  Regarding the event overall, we were now four races behind on the schedule and the event permit would only last for so long.  Event Authority CEO Stephen Barclay announced that the racing would continue every day until we were done with no more lay or reserve days.  Yes, this was shaping up to be more and more like Groundhog Day.

I headed out on the photo boat for the races and ETNZ won the first race of the day.  Is this it?  Is today the day?  Race two stared and I thought I had heard on the radio that they had actually hit the wind limit.  But the boats were still going, heading around the first reaching mark.  Neither boat stopped racing until they were heading down the second leg of the course.  Race two had indeed been postponed.

Suddenly I was very excited that there would be one more day and that the regatta wasn’t over just yet.  I wondered if I shouldn’t gather up some Golden Gate Yacht Club members that evening to head to the club for one last look at that Auld Mug.  ETNZ was now on Match Point.

The media center was buzzing when we got back from being on the water.  However, I seemed to be the only one excited about the prospect of one more day of racing.  I guess the other members of the international media just wanted to go home - and I was already home.  We had all been at this for some time.  I heard several people on the phone changing their flights ... again.  Groundhog Day was setting in for sure.

At the post race press conference, Sir Ben Ainslie confessed that he thought he had heard the call canceling the race before the start but with so much going on in the pre-start and with so much at stake, like having ETNZ win it all, he kept his mouth shut until he was certain.  This actually caused a few chuckles throughout the audience.

With ETNZ on match point, the Waiheke Island Yacht Club was again in full swing that afternoon and evening, as was Pier 23.  But it was an early night.  Photographers were prepared for the awards ceremonies.  Rumors were that ETNZ had the Fairmont on hold for their celebration party and a jet was on standby at San Francisco International Airport to take the team and the Cup to New Zealand.  This was match point.  Tomorrow could be the day and you could feel the excitement and anticipation in the air.  

And what about my odd feeling?  Was this the shift I was anticipating?  It sure seemed like it.

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