My love of sailing has taken me all over the world. I have a great passion for the sport. I enjoy the history of sailing as well as following the modern high tech developments in sailing. My boat of choice is the Hobie 16, which is arguably the most common and popular catamaran in the world. When I saw an invitation to compete in this year’s Alter Cup by US Sailing (Annual Multihull National Championship) that happened to be raced on Hobie 16’s this year, and that some of the racing would be on the Americas Cup course, I had to go. Many believed it would be a memorable experience and none of us were let down. My experiences during the event far exceeded all my expectations.
I would make the trip from Las Vegas and join the other racers that included a handful of locals but also teams from the east coast, Puerto Rico and one sailor from France. We gathered at Sausalito Yacht Club who hosted our event. Dafna Brown and I raced day one of three in front of Angel Island and saw only light winds due to the high pressure that was making for much warmer than normal temperatures around the bay area.
The second day our wise Race Committee decided to move the course further to the east near Berkeley, we were rewarded with fantastic winds and five great races. An added bonus to the day was a long sail back across the bay that would have us sail past Alcatraz Island. We spent our time on the return sail maxing out the Hobie 16’s hull speed on some very fast reaching. We were playing like kids screaming across the water, with spray flying everywhere, for what felt like an hour.
Everyone was excited for the last day. We all had AC Open decals’ on our sails, to acknowledge that we were allowed on the AC course. A very early start to the day began with a tow across the bay to downtown San Francisco. The wind began to fill before we were across and we started sailing faster than our tow. We were set free and had a fantastic sail, beaching the boat on a small spot of sand. Many spectators began taking pictures, asking questions and getting our email address. Is this what a celebrity feels like?
We had two fantastic races in front of the crowd. The announcer would say our names as we past and you could hear the spectators cheering and yelling. The organizers asked us to do a fly by and show off for the crowed after each race, and we all did, reaching fast and flying high. The whole scene was surreal. Stunt planes in the air spinning and trailing smoke. Fire boats on the water, spraying huge plumes of white water in the air, Sky Divers flying into the scene from above. The entire bay rimmed with white canvas of sails, make their way to the show. Our last time to the top mark the national anthem was playing to start the Americas cup. Next we saw what we all came for The AC 72’s. Like towering giant ghosts they wove their way through the Hobie 16’s and support boats. Their smoothness and speed had an unearthly feel. They were magnificent to watch. We were in awe. My God! We cried, “There is New Zealand”. ETNZ was foiling down wind and weaving its way between the 16’s. We were on a broad reach at a fare speed when we saw it. A giant towering shadow was coming toward us. It took a moment to register what it was we were seeing. Finally we realized it was Oracle. They were on course straight at us and closing fast.
It was so much bigger than it looks on TV. They were on starboard and we were on port. We bore away to give them room. This developed a large hole for them to come up into. Instead they turn down on us. I bore away more and they seemed to follow. I thought “these are pro sailors surly they see us?”, so we held our course. Their closing speed was so fast and in an instant they were right next to us. We were in complete AWE. We stopped sailing for the moment. It was so exhilarating as they passed that we could not help screaming and cheering at the top of our lungs. You could hear the echo hum of the carbon fiber. They gave us something to remember forever. It was beyond cool. The expressions they wore were serious. They had the look and feel of gallant knights going into battle on a giant steed. A few of their crew gave a slight nod as they passed. It was so exhilarating that it took us a while to regain our composure and continue.
And so it was, the common one-design Hobie 16 meets the state-of-the-art AC72, both boats sharing a common love of the precious gift of wind, water and friendly competition. Coolest thing ever!