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A decade ago, as we watched the America’s Cup races
on TV, we longed to watch a race
in person from the water. Last week, we got our chance. The current America’s Cup defender is the Golden Gate Yacht Club on San Francisco Bay. The races scheduled for October 2-7th have been on our calendar since we realized
our trip to the area would coincide.
We wanted to get Dirona within dinghy distance of the course, so we
anchored for the night
outside the South Harbor marina breakwater
off AT&T park, about three miles from the course. We were weren't sure
how rough our anchorage might get due to boat wakes and the afternoon winds,
but it turned to be fine. And our view, stretching from downtown San
Francisco and across the Bay bridge was amazing. And we could see the
America's Cup fleet moored nearby: in the
panoramic photo below, their 70-foot masts are visible at the west end
of the Bay bridge just left of the carrier
Before heading out to the course, we stopped off in "the pits" to check out
the boats. Crews already were on board most of them, either preparing the
boat or themselves for the afternoon's event.
The carbon-fiber AC45
catamarans are like Formula I race cars--just amazing technology. At
44' long, with a 900 sq. foot wing on a 70' mast, they weigh only 3,000
pounds and can reach speeds of over 30 knots. Their support boats are
pretty nice too.
Before the races, we got to see our
Blue Angels show of the year, part of the
Fleet Week festivities. We were a
little closer to the action this time and had an awesome view. The shoreline
and bay were full of people out to see the show as well.
And then for the main event. The racing was exciting--boy those boats move
fast--and it was just wild to be there watching on San Francisco Bay with the
Golden Gate Bridge in the background.
There even was some excitement off the course as well. The boat on the
right, maneuvering through the spectators, nearly ran us over in the dinghy
before colliding with the sailboat on the left.
After the races, some of the teams towed their boats back to their moorage,
but a few sailed back. The boats ran incredibly well in the rough
water--just skimming across the surface. We barely could keep up in our
30-knot dinghy, often having to slow down through larger wakes. And with
some impressive tight-quarters boat-handling, team Artemis even sailed right
onto their buoy.
Shortly after we arrived, the Prada boat was lifted out of the water by
crane. We could see a large dent in the side, but weren't sure if that was
the reason for lifting it.
The AC45s will race in several venues around the world as part of the
World Series. These boats are designed for quick assembly and
disassembly to fit in a 40-foot shipping container. The final races, for the Louis
Vuitton Cup and the America's Cup, will be raced in the
massive AC72s. The
AC72s are roughly twice the size of the AC45s: 72' long, with a 131' mast
and a 2,800 sq.-foot wing area, and weighing 13,000 lbs. Their crew size is
11, compared to 5 on the AC45s.
We'd seen defending champion team Oracle's AC72 out for its world open-water
debut a couple of weeks ago. We clocked them on radar at 31.5 knots, and it
will be capable of doing considerably more. We saw team Oracle's AC72 again
this past weekend. The huge mast dwarfed the eleven crew below it as the
boat sped across the bay.
Our cruising guide, Waggoner sister publication
Cruising the Secret Coast, is available
at local bookstores and online. Click book image for details.