Wednesday, September 11, 2013

The next few days ... Monday - Wednesday, Sept. 9, 10 & 11

Monday, Tuesday & Wednesday
September 9-11, 2013
ETNZ - 4
OTUSA - 0 (-1)

Over these three days there was only one actual race, but don’t be fooled into thinking that meant that all else was quiet regarding the America’s Cup.

Monday, Sept. 9 there were no races scheduled and with the full on weekend I had just experienced, I welcomed having some down time.  Yanmar, the Official Technical Partner of ORACLE Team USA (OTUSA), was hosting an event out at the team base at Pier 80.  They were unveiling their Premium Brand Project which included a cool looking boat, some farm equipment and their new garment line.  When I think of Yanmar, I do think of boat engines so I guess I can see the logic in going into marine clothing, but they also introduced their agricultural garment line.  Although this seemed like a curious mix to me, I liked the gear.  It was a fun event and some of the OTUSA sailing team was on hand to chat during the presentation.

On Tuesday racing was scheduled and I was once again not on a photo boat.  So I decided to switch up my regular morning routine.  I received an invitation to attend the dock out show down at the OTUSA base.  This was a real treat.  There was a ‘friends and family’ tent set up near the back of the boat shed.  The tent was in the perfect location to see the AC72 platform get wheeled out of the shed and over to the crane.  Next up they rolled out the wing and the crane operator got to work along with the shore team in hoisting the wing and assembling it onto the boat platform.  This really is an incredible sight to behold.

Over to the right there was another hospitality area set up.  This appeared to be for corporate clients.  Several containers, including one that held a mini-Puma gear store, were stacked upon each other creating a small building complete with an observation deck on top.  Green astro-turf covered the ground creating a “lawn” with a few chairs completing this corporate area.  It seemed as though for each segment of the dock-out a different corporate group was paraded through - group one for the roll out, then off they went - group two for the hoisting of the wing, then off they went - group three for the launching of the boat from the dock into the water and they too then disappeared.  This whole time, the Auld Mug sat perched on her stand, glistening in the morning sun creating the perfect photo opportunity for the corporate clientele.  

During this dog and pony show, things were rather quiet in the friends and family tent.  There was a jumpy castle in the back, bins full of toys for toddler-aged children, coffee and pastries along another wall, and large screen TVs perched throughout the tent.  There were several adult seating areas in addition to the well equipped kids play area.  As the last of the corporate clients headed off, the friends and family started to arrive.  Boxes held American Flags, inflatable noise makers, bumper stickers and temporary tattoos.  But the friends and family hardly needed such accoutrements as they came already dressed in leggings of stars and stripes, full OTUSA gear - some even hand painted.  They had posters, signs and banners of all shapes and sizes and everyone gathered in the tent.  Eventually the sailors started to appear, all geared up and ready for the day.

Those who had been there before clearly knew the routine as at a certain point, everyone started moving toward the dock.  Flags were being waived, banners held high and music was playing through the outside speaker system.  The sailors headed down the gangplank and onto the boat.  “Back in Black” by AC/DC blared through the speakers and everyone started waving.  This was their theme song and as it played, the boat was let loose from her mooring and slowly drifted toward the bay.  All the while, kids, wives, parents, friends and other family cheered as their boys sailed away to face another day of racing in the America’s Cup.   

From Pier 80 it was a long and bumper-to-bumper drive back to Piers 27-29 and the America’s Cup Park.  After seeing the team again for the public dock-out show, I headed to the Marina Green to meet up with some friends as I had not yet had the America’s Cup Village experience.  We had seats in the Grandstands which also gave us exclusive access to food, beverages and bathrooms (always important.)

In the first race of the day, OTUSA won the start, led at the first mark and was ahead by 8 seconds at the leeward gate.  But on the third leg of the race, Emirates Team NZ (ETNZ) passed OTUSA and led at the windward mark by 1:17.  OUCH.  In the end, ETNZ won by 1:05.  Before the start of the second race of the day, OTUSA opted to use their one-time-only postponement card.  This was a bit of a shocker.

When I got to the media center that afternoon it was humming!  Rumors were flying about members of the OTUSA team being switched out.  During the press conference OTUSA Skipper Jimmy Spithill said “We need to go back and regroup.”  He also said that “There were a couple of mistakes there, tacking as well, which is something we need to address.  We need to up our game.”  Then he made the classic comment of “You’re a rooster one day and a feather duster the next.”  

That afternoon at the unofficial gathering at Pier 23 the rumors were flying as well.  It seemed as though everyone was there that afternoon from ETNZ shore crew to some of the Artemis sailing team, as well as members of the international media, AC employees and volunteers.  The day’s events were the hot topics as well as their meaning and possible outcomes.  There was some really great stuff being discussed and I was enjoying every word.

No America’s Cup races were scheduled for Wednesday but everyone was curious to see who OTUSA would have on their boat for practice that day.  I headed out on the water for the Super Yacht Regatta, letting the spies take care of the rumor mill.  Shooting the Super Yachts was quite different from photographing the AC72’s.  First of all, the Super Yachts are a bit slower so you can really anticipate and maneuver for your shots.  This actually took a little getting used to, but was a very welcome change.  These yachts were beautiful - their lines, the sails, and that amazing “WHOMP” sound when their huge spinnakers were hoisted and filled with wind.  They graciously glided around the bay in all their majesty.  

I was only out for a couple of hours that afternoon and the media center was particularly quiet that day as there was a Napa Valley Tour for the media so many were up north for the day.  (I took a pass on that expedition.)  That evening I was invited by the ladies of the San Francisco Yacht Club to attend a Nautical Fashion Show held at Saks Fifth Avenue.  Unfortunately my shopping excursion had to be cut short because I had a photo assignment nearby.  I was filling in for another photographer for the night.  Sir Ben Ainslie needed me so of course I was there.  It was a dinner for some of the JP Morgan VIPs and I was there to photograph Sir Ben, his olympic medals and his guests.  This, for me, was truly a dream job.
Next up ... Races Days 4 & 5

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