The America’s Cup Comes Home

[EW: Rosalind stole the keys! Awesome!!! Uh. Ut oh.]

Looks like Mom and Dad have been so consumed with all-things NSA they went and left the keys to the joint right out in the open. I better write fast.


One week ago the America’s Cup standing stood at New Zealand eight wins, USA one (they actually had three, but more on that later), with first team to reach nine the champion. Everyone – everyone – hoped the US boat could eke out a couple more wins before the Kiwis got that inevitable last win and took the Cup back home. Oracle skipper Jimmy Spithill had other plans, calmly proclaiming his team focused on winning not just the next race, but the Cup itself. The World politely smiled and nodded, while rolling our eyes. Dude, c’mon, you’d need to reel off eight sudden death wins in – a – row.

I attended the Opening Weekend races and watched New Zealand take 3 out of 4, but what I saw in those races should’ve prepared me for the amazing feat Oracle was about to pull off. The US boat could’ve won two more of those opening races if not for some bad tactical decisions and poor boat handling during key tacks and gybes. The Kiwis had the faster boat upwind, but Oracle was faster downwind. If they could improve the tactical and stabilize the maneuvers, they had a real chance to get back into things.

They replaced the tactician with 5-time Olympian Ben Ainslie, got the new crew in sync, made tweaks to the boat night after night, and started to win. Every race. Every day. The World stopped smirking and the thousands along the San Francisco waterfront went wild as the US boat now stretched out its leads on the upwind legs thanks to whatever engineering tweak magic the techs had made.

(A moment to address the, uh, cheating thing: Oracle started the series in the hole -2 races due to a cheating incident with their AC45 boat in an earlier series. I can’t believe they were so stupid, and they deserve what they got, which was a 2 point race penalty, and the removal of their wing trimmer four days before the start of the series. Add in Oracle owner billionaire Larry Ellison’s uncanny ability to come off like a Bond Villain sent straight from central casting, and well, it can lead to rather fantastical musings – “That’s it! An Oracle sub with a magnet pulled the US boat upwind!”)

In today’s final the Kiwis got the jump at the start, rounding the first mark ahead while Oracle buried their bow and dropped their speed. They recovered, gave chase and took the lead, which New Zealand grabbed back, then USA pulled ahead. And then came Leg 4, a downwind leg, and Oracle put on their jets, shifted into a whole new gear and left the Kiwis almost 700 meters behind. From there the US boat just had to stay in one piece.

My sailing friends and I have long dreamed of an America’s Cup series on the San Francisco Bay, and the reality has surpassed even our highest hopes. A gorgeous natural amphitheatre, miles of shoreline to watch up close, scary-fast boats that fly across the water and along the waterfront, so close the crowd and crew are able to feed off each others energy.

I celebrate the Oracle team for pulling off one of the most incredible sporting comebacks in history. I salute the New Zealand team for a great run and the Kiwi fans for being the nicest, funniest, fervent fans this side of Middle Earth.

And I raise a toast to the City of San Francisco and the America’s Cup Organization for showing what a true public and private partnership can reap, how beautiful public spaces can be used to great effect and benefit for the public.

To the thousands of fans who flocked to the City, and the happy hotel owners and cafe managers and taxi drivers et al, meet you back here in a few years!

21 replies
  1. joanneleon says:

    Thanks, Rosalind. You did a gorgeous job telling this story.

    I think Larry Ellison really *is* a Bond villain but even I’m happy for him today.

  2. dustbunny44 says:

    Honestly, my first thoughts after hearing they did it were “How did Ellison cheat to pull this one off?” I have no evidence or even grounded suspicions, just 30 years in the cutthroat IT business surrounded by Oracle. But living in Berkeley, I’m glad that, it appears, there’ll be another round of AmeriCup madness here in a few years. A look at those $100 million toys and their crews never fails to inspire wonder about just how have we let inequality and corporate rights get so out of hand here in the USA.

  3. thatvisionthing says:

    Hi Rosalind! Last America’s Cup I really paid attention to was in San Diego (90s?), Kiwis against Dennis O’Connor. What I remember is that the Kiwis were liked for their goodguyness and O’Connor’s Calvinball rulefare led to something like “New Zealand rules the waves and Dennis waives the rules.” Can’t even remember what that was about exactly, but I imagine it’s been around a bit. Reading your post takes me back. Loved the sailing. Stars and Stripes coming out of its slip with Underdog playing on boombox. All fun. Sorry I missed this America’s Cup – no TV, I didn’t even know it was happening and now it’s over. I actually don’t know if I can watch a 2+ hour video online, nothing makes my computer keel over faster than a long video, but… mmmm, thx.

    o/t, I also want to thank you for posting the link to the Loki Hall H clip and Rayne for posting the superheroes diary — I think I’ve now seen all the Marvels, and Iron Man, actually Tony Stark, probably actually Robert Downey Jr. except I can’t finish Chaplain, is my fave. Tons to say about IM3. Host an Iron Man diary!

  4. rosalind says:

    @thatvisionthing: thanks, thatvision! and the race starts at the :14 mark and ends at :39. really encourage you to watch at least the start, and if you watch to the end you get treated to a SF Fire Boat putting on quite the display (having witnessed several boat/dock fires, i have a soft spot for fire boats)

    and i can watch that Loki clip over and over, just cracks me up. managed to not make it to IM3, but am counting down until “Thor: The Dark World”!

  5. thatvisionthing says:

    @rosalind: I don’t even have to watch it again, all I have to do is think “Hall H” and I roll over and die again. Have you seen his velociraptor? His parents must have loved raising him. Yep, looking forward to Dark World, except they keep making him a mean villain when he’s really not. Give Loki a hug. I hope his mom and Odin are visiting him in jail.

    IM3 was ambitious in a way I loved and also fell short in headbanging ways. And that’s looking at it as a Tony fan who likes him better out of the suit. I started reading some of the 900+ fan reviews on IMDB from people that were at the theater on day 1 and who know the Iron Man universe inside and out, and man, there’s some serious pain there. I think they just want to throttle, whereas I want to cheer and throttle. Meanwhile, I see 3 made more money than 1 or 2. Looking forward to 4. Can Brad Bird direct? It’s already part Iron Giant.

    Will give the America’s Cup video a try when I get back. Thanks again!

  6. thatvisionthing says:

    @rosalind: I said O’Connor! Oops, Conner*. (So much better when Thor called Phil “Son of Coul.”)

    Well, either I’m hosed or everyone in the world is trying to watch the America’s Cup video. I clicked it hours ago. After maybe a half hour it started to play. I got a few seconds and then it froze. Then another half hour goes by and I get a few more seconds and… and now I give up. But they’re catamarans! With black hulls! This is not my America’s Cup! But wow. Thanks again.

    Oh hey, I was going to say something about how San Diego has a replica of America, the yacht America’s Cup was named after – and I see it’s up in San Francisco for the race – you saw it? What a beauty:

    * I googled his name and this shows up: “Dennis Conner backing Team New Zealand, America’s Cup 2013”

    Read more:

  7. thatvisionthing says:

    @rosalind: What did Oracle do at 14:30?

    Man, that looks like my dad’s old Ford Fairlane’s steering wheel. Come to think of it, that was a boat.

    Okay, watching, freezing, watching, freezing…

    Frozen for good at 29:05, dammit.

  8. rosalind says:

    @thatvisionthing: welcome to America’s Cup, the crews have always drawn from the Aussies/Kiwis/Brits with a smattering of Americans no matter the Country the boat is sailing for. personally i kind of like this We Are the World aspect, but understand others not able to fully embrace the US boats as a real US boat.

  9. rosalind says:

    @thatvisionthing: not sure if the boat got loose on them or they got hit with a wave or a combo, but they buried the bow which is a heart-in-throat moment cause if the boat continues downwards it can cause a “pitch pole” where the boat kinda cartwheels over itself, something with a boat that size would be catastrophic.

  10. thatvisionthing says:

    @rosalind: Yeah, I finally saw the end of the race, after a while. Was great, I think. I wondered if they actually could paint the flag on the bay, but it was gone when NZ crossed so guess not. Fireboat, yes!!! Little boat flotilla, yes!!! The closing montage looks like there were lots of heart-in-throat moments. Tell me when they put out a DVD, I do want to see but evidently youtube is not my friend. Also would be nice if they could do a sail track diagram so you could see where everyone was on the course and what the paths were. I get lost. So much tech whiz and not that? Heck.

  11. thatvisionthing says:

    @rosalind: Also, re Daddy’s Fairlane’s steering wheel… I’m thinking, come to think of it, I was a lot smaller then. I’m thinking, Edith Ann. Now Edith Ann is steering a boat.

    (Did I just have an American dream?)

  12. thatvisionthing says:

    @rosalind: Also, re superheroes, I think Snow White is ruling:

    Also re superheroes and America’s Cup, I think next race should be between Oracle and Tesla. Ellison and Musk both had spotlights in IM2, no? Maybe next boats have solar panels? I’m thinking. What did Nick Fury tell Tony in IM2 about Tony’s dad Howard? “He was about to kick off an energy race that was gonna dwarf the arms race.” Well then. About time for that ship to sail.

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