OTUSA - 0 (-1)
I started off today a little bummed as I had been informed that I would not be on a photo boat. The reality is that there are less than 20 photo boat spots per day for photographers and there are more than 40 photographers on hand at the moment from around the world to cover this event. I had been very fortunate in getting out on the water during the Louis Vuitton Cup series, but now demand was up - this is the America’s Cup, the big show. I also needed to remember that it was just day 2 - races 3 & 4 of a potential 17 race event. Staying on land would give me a different perspective and I convinced myself that it would be good to have the “fan” experience at The America’s Cup Park at Piers 27-29 for the day.
I texted a few friends who I hoped would be watching the racing to see if they might happen to be around the America’s Cup Park later that day and I easily found a few that had those exact plans. They were excited to have me along. I have such good friends!
I set about my usual morning routine of heading down to the media center and attending the media briefing with Iain Murray and Stephen Barclay. These briefings really set the tone of the day for me. Barclay reported that there had been 16,000 people at the America’s Cup Village at the Marina Green on Saturday. At the America’s Cup Park at Piers 27-29, they hit 28,500 - so many fans that they had to restrict people from going to the end of the pier to watch the finish. This was good news for the event.
From the briefing, I headed to the Dock Out Show and snapped away. There was a marching band, the Auld Mug was placed along the red carpet for the sailors to walk by as they headed to the stage (for inspiration I suppose) and it felt like Kiwi there were fans everywhere. The Kiwi fans easily outnumbered those cheering for ORACLE Team USA, but with the cheating scandal and OTUSA being behind, I wasn’t too surprised.
After the Dock Out Show I found myself aimlessly wandering around the pier for a bit, taking in the whole scene while waiting for my friends to arrive for the races. I texted that I would meet them outside the media center as, quite frankly, I needed to use the restroom and I’ll admit the ones inside the media center (which will become SF’s new cruise ship terminal) were some of the nicest ones on the pier. When I walked into the media center one of the staff came up to me and told me they had a no-show on one of the photo boats. Did I want to go out? YES! OK - We have to go NOW, they told me. But I needed to get geared up. It was already past the photo boat dock out time so I knew I had to be quick. In less than two minutes I had my gear out of my locker, had put on my foulies (foul weather gear to keep one dry and warm while on the water) and was headed for the door.
As I rushed out, my friends were there waiting for me. They took one look at me and knew instantly that I had gotten a spot on a boat. They ran with me down the pier to the photo boat dock, cheering for me the whole way. As I headed down the gangplank to board, they energetically waved at me, shouting out their goodbyes as if I was heading on some 3 month transatlantic voyage. My “such good friends” are rather funny too.
It had been hot on the pier that morning, warmer than normal for San Francisco. When our boat motored around the bend of the SF peninsula near Fisherman’s Wharf, we entered a wall of fog and the temperature dropped at least 15 degrees. Even though adrenaline was still pumping through me, my stomach growled just a little as I suddenly realized I had not packed my usual snacks nor had I grabbed a Red Bull before leaving the media center.
It wasn’t long before Race 3 started, and ETNZ once again won. Was this going to be a blowout? It seemed as though this America’s Cup was going to be over very quickly the way things were going.
For the start of Race 4 our boat was hanging out by Regardless, the race committee boat. We were trying for some new and different photo angles during the pre-start. There were a few other protector boats around but not any other photo boats. I looked over at one point and who did I see but the elusive Larry Ellison sitting on the back of one of the tenders. No one else on my photo boat seemed to notice him so I snapped away, trying to get “the shot.” I had not yet seen very many shots of Larry so I knew this was my chance. Then someone on Larry’s tender noticed what I was doing. I must admit that my lens was rather big that day - a 400mm - so it wasn’t like I was being discreet. The rather large gentleman who saw me purposefully moved in between my lens and Mr. Ellison. So much for the shot.
OTUSA won Race 4! Unfortunately, we were nowhere near the finish line for that first win of the home team. Since we had been at the top end of the course (near the Golden Gate Bridge) and could not make it all the way back to the America’s Cup Park for that second race finish, I settled for being in front of the Golden Gate Yacht Club for the winning moment. It was nice to see so many fans out on the bleachers as well as along the jetty by the club.
Back on land I started downloading all my images from that day. It was taking a long time. The clock said 4:00 pm and I needed to go. I had an event that evening and I needed to get changed. But of course on my way from the Media Center to Pier 19 where my Vespa was parked, I had to pass by Pier 23 - worst yet - the Pier 23 beer garden. The post race gathering was in full swing as I tried to make it past, only to be coaxed in by members of the Race Management as well as my friends who I had ditched earlier in the day. OK - I had time for one! But only one, and I was headed home.
Tonight was the Andrew ‘Bart’ Simpson America’s Cup Memorial Dinner. The black tie event was held at the new SF Exploratorium. This was actually the first event ever held at the Exploratorium. And it was an amazing venue for this very special evening.
There was champagne and hors d'oeuvres to start as the who’s who of the America’s Cup sailing world wandered around the various silent auction items and museum exhibits on the lower level. Tonight was a fund raiser for the Andrew Simpson Sailing Foundation and there were a few items I had my eye on.
Iain Percy appeared from the upper balcony and very graciously and humbly welcomed us all to this “glittering evening celebrating the life of Olympic Champion and America’s Cup Sailor,” as well as Iain’s lifelong friend and sailing partner, Andrew ‘Bart’ Simpson. It was a very moving speech and I was thankful to have a cocktail napkin in my hand. After one last look at the silent auction items we all headed upstairs for dinner and the live auction. At each of the tables there were two iPads that had the table member’s information pre-programmed in. This allowed everyone to continue to bid on the items downstairs, in what quickly became a not-so-silent auction. As bids were placed during dinner, they would appear not only on the iPads, but also on a big screen at the front of the room. Iain Percy just outbid Sir Russell Coutts on item #12. Percy’s table would cheer. James Spitthill just outbid Brad Butterworth on something else. Ellen Hoke is in a bidding war with Nathan Outteridge. This was fun!
During the live action I really wanted to bid on having Sir Ben Ainslie and Iain Percy as after-guard on a regatta of my choosing, but that went for $15,000 - a little too pricy for me. Reports were that over $200,000 was raised that night for the Andrew Simpson Sailing Foundation between both the live and not-so-silent auctions. After dancing and dessert back downstairs, I headed out with the auction item I was after - the signed Artemis Helmet. As I was walking out, I noticed that one particular signature was missing which was that of Artemis Racing Chairman Torbjörn Törnqvist. He just happened to be waiting for his car outside the Exploritorium. “You wouldn’t happen to have a sharpie to sign my helmet, would you?” I asked. “No” he replied “but I’ll guess my driver does.” Sure enough, his driver had the fattest sharpie I have ever seen and Mr. Törnqvist signed away right across the top of the helmet.
Holding my freshly signed bright yellow helmet on its custom made carbon fibre stand, I slid into the back seat of my UBER and headed home for the night. This was a great starting weekend for the America’s Cup - amazing racing, fun events, friends and fans everywhere. But as my driver escorted me up the hills of San Francisco toward home, I was very happy to know that tomorrow was a “day off.”