If you’re a sailing fanatic, this week would be an ideal time to take a vacation from your workaday grind — or call in sick, starting tomorrow morning. That’s when the second round of the America’s Cup World Series will crank up on San Francisco Bay, accompanied by the region’s annual Fleet Week celebrations beginning on Thursday.
If you missed the heart-pounding action of ACWS Season Two’s round one in August, you owe it to yourself to spend as much time as possible soaking in the excitement of both fleet and match racing between the world’s best sailors. And as promoters often point out, America’s Cup racing has never before been staged at a more viewer-accessible venue than along the San Francisco Cityfront.
Via land, sea or TV? Having witnessed the August races from both the water and the shoreline — and watched live on the tube and Internet — we can tell you there are arguments for each option: Due to the constraints of the racing ‘box’ you’ll be a lot closer to the action when watching from the specially erected bleachers on shore (midweek tickets still available), out on the spit adjacent to the sponsoring Golden Gate YC, or along the shoreline just west of the St. Francis YC (windward marks). But there is definitely something magical about watching from the deck of a spectator boat, semi-chaotic as that scene may be. As with watching an NFL game, the very best view of the action is probably watching at home on your TV (and, in this case also streaming live on the Internet). But there’s no substitute for being there in person, where the excitement and exhilaration are palpable.
The AC45 action runs tomorrow (Tuesday) through Sunday. Needless to say, mid-week crowds will be much smaller in the must-see AC Village, where loudspeakers explain the subtle nuances of this lightning-fast, adrenalin-fueled sport, and huge video monitors show live action, augmented by state-of-the-art graphics of course boundaries, lay lines, wind angles and more. The video crews do a phenomenal job, not to mention the footage that’s constantly streaming in from onboard pod cams.
Practice racing begins tomorrow, 4:00-6:00 p.m., with a specatator-accessible skipper debriefing afterward. Match-racing qualifiers occupy the same time slot Wednesday. On Thursday, the U.S. Navy’s Blue Angels will hold an afternoon practice session, bracketed by AC45 Match Race Quarterfinal beforehand (12:20-1:00 p.m.), and Fleet racing afterward, beginning at 5:10.
Air and sky activities will follow roughly the same schedule Friday and Saturday (along with many additional shoreside activities), but Sunday’s schedule will vary, highlighted by the Super Sunday Fleet Race at 1:30 p.m. immediately followed by yet another Fleet Week Air Show. Yeah, it’s complicated choreography, so be sure to study the online event schedule, and don’t miss the TV broadcast schedule here. Be aware also, that all races — with the exception of the finals, which can be viewed live on NBC — will be viewable in real time via an Internet streaming broadband site.
Fleet Week runs Wednesday, October 3 through Tuesday, October 9, when the ships depart. In addition to the Blue Angels’ shows, activities include the arrival of the 847-ft USS Makin Island carrier, ship tours (age 8 minimum), and the Parade of Ships (eastward from the Golden Gate Bridge) at 11:00 a.m. Saturday.
As we said, it’s going to be a very busy week. And if all this water-focused action wasn’t enough excitement, the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass event (which draws 3/4 of a million spectators) will take place Friday to Sunday, the S.F. Giants will be in playoff games at AT&T Park both Saturday and Sunday, plus there’ll be a Niners game Sunday, too. So if there was ever a time to take advantage of the Bay Area’s public transportation network, this is it. See 511.org for a complete overview.
We’d be willing to bet that the youngest sailor in the Round the Rocks Race put on by the Singlehanded Sailing Society on September 8 was eight-year-old Jack Holden. Jack was crewing for his dad Michael in a doublehanded spinnaker division on the family’s Richmond YC-based Laser 28 Firebolt.
After the race, we asked Mike how it went, wondering if it was more like singlehanding while babysitting than actually doublehanding. "Sailing with Jack was fun, definitely not babysitting," replied Mike.
"What is he able to do as crew while you’re racing?" we asked. "He is officially the snacktician on the boat," said Mike, "so he gets us food and drinks during the race, and does other cabin jobs like switching battery banks when I start the engine." Sounds like little kid jobs so far, but wait…
"He helps with the jib during tacks: he always loads the winch before and he releases if it’s not too choppy – otherwise he stands in the companionway while I do it. He mans the spinnaker sheet during jibes in case I didn’t ease it enough to make the pole, and he presses the ‘turn 10 degrees’ button on the autopilot when I have jibed the pole to get the main to stay over. I was driving upwind, but the autopilot steered for the spinnaker leg, the same as if I was singlehanding. We reefed and unreefed several times to keep it mellow for him."
The race began on the windy Berkeley Circle, so Firebolt started with one reef in the main. They shook it out after Raccoon Strait, and put it back in near the Richmond channel during the long upwind leg back to Berkeley. "We put in the second reef east of Southampton. Jack eases the halyard while I get the tack fixed. He’s not quite strong enough to grind, but he will set up winches for me if I need outhaul or halyard tension.
"Jack was reading the second Harry Potter book (required reading on Firebolt), so he did take a couple of breaks below to read during the run to the Brothers and after the finish. Nathaniel (my almost-10-year-old) did the SSS Corinthian Race with me in April, which was my first time racing with a kid doublehanded, and he did a great job. Round the Rocks was Jack’s turn."
Wife Jen always has first dibs as crew, but if not her it will be Nathaniel’s turn again for the Vallejo 1-2 on October 6-7. The Vallejo 1-2 is unique as far as we know: Skippers race from Richmond to Vallejo YC singlehanded on Saturday, pick up one crew member, and race back to RYC doublehanded on Sunday. The deadline to register is this Wednesday, and the skippers meeting will be the same evening at Oakland YC in Alameda. See www.sfbaysss.org for info and to sign up.
For reports and lots of photos from the SSS Round the Rocks and Half Moon Bay Races, see the The Racing Sheet in this month’s issue of Latitude 38, which comes out today.
We’d wager there aren’t too many cruising boat rendezvous that would attract not just one but four Singlehanded TransPac vets — plus two hopefuls — but then again, the venerable Westsail 32 is in a class of its own. The Northern California Westsail Rendezvous was held this weekend at San Leandro YC where about a dozen boats and more than 50 guests converged to discuss all things Westsail.
Among the crowd were a pack of Singlehanded Traspac racers: Dave King from Saraband (’10), Joshua Siegel from Sunquest (’08), Rob Tryon who did the race in a Valiant 32 (’08) and was Race Chair for this summer’s edition, and Randy Leasure from Tortuga (’12). The quartet did their best to convince Stockton’s Duke MacGill of Amable and Gary Burton of Elizabeth Ann — who sailed down from Brookings, Oregon, with crew John Boye, just for the rondy — to enter the 2014 running of the race. Only time will tell if they were successful.
‘Mr. Westsail’ himself, Bud Taplan, was also in attendance, offering advice and ‘two-beer surveys’ to the gathered boats. At dinner, he did his best to tell what promised to be very entertaining stories about his times traveling with pal Bob Knobloch of Soltero but was convinced to hold off until kids — or maybe just journalists — weren’t in the room.
If you’ve never attended one, rendezvous are rife with ‘teachable moments’. For example, we learned more about DSC-enabled VHF radios than we ever thought we cared about from a very thorough presentation by SLYC Commodore Norm Pennington. In fact, having been lazy about setting up our own radios to take full advantage of DSC, we’re going write about the process — and benefits — in a future issue of Latitude 38.
If you happen to spot a roving pack of Westsails on the Bay this week, that will be the remnants of the rondy on a weeklong cruise of the Bay. Good timing, as the AC45s will be out in full force, as will the Blue Angels for Fleet Week (see top story).
Today’s Latitude 38 Quiz is where were these cruising photos taken, and who is that young man ‘showing the flag’ with his Speedo? For the answers, pick up this month’s issue of Latitude 38, available on the street today.