By Wendy Rasmussen
Before the America’s Cup came to San Francisco, I never paid much attention to the event. It doesn’t get much press here in the US, and being a native of a land-locked state, sailing was not something I grew up with.
But after living in San Francisco for many years, I learned to sail and gradually my awareness of the America’s Cup increased, and I gained an appreciation of the event and the hard work that goes into designing and sailing the boats.
Those who wish to race for the cup become Challengers. If multiple teams are challenging, they must duel it out to decide who will then face the Defender in the America’s Cup Finals. This series of races became known as the Luis Vuitton Cup. From the America’s Cup Website:
In 1970, more than one yacht club interested in challenging for the America’s Cup, so for the first time, a competition was staged to determine the single Challenger that would face the Defender, the New York Yacht Club.
The French malletier Louis Vuitton became involved with the America’s Cup in 1983, supporting the Challenger Selection Series that came to be known as the Louis Vuitton Cup. The idea was twofold; to develop and identify the strongest possible challenger for the America’s Cup and ensure that they were sufficiently battle-tested through tough competition to beat the Defender.
(Be sure to check out www.americascup.com for information, videos, history, race results and more).
Living in San Francisco, I had the wonderful opportunity to watch several of the races, to meet many of the sailors, and to watch the teams ready themselves for the “big day”. The teams were in town for several months before the regattas to practice. The AC72s were (are) an amazing site to see, both from land and from the water. They are truly a sight to behold, especially when foiling at speeds of up to 45kts*
The 34th America’s Cup finals proved to be the longest in history due to several postponements due to wind conditions. In fact, the official end date for the regatta was September 21; the final race was on September 25th. But perhaps the most amazing feat of this regatta was the comeback made by OTUSA:
In order to win the Cup, a team must earn nine points. Ordinarily, this would mean winning 9 races (1pt per win). But before the regatta began, Oracle were penalized two points due to an infraction in an earlier series. And so while ETNZ needed to win 9 races, OTUSA had to 11.
The comeback began on Sept 19, 2013. ETNZ were ONE race away from winning the Cup. OTUSA still need to win EIGHT. For days on end, we all said, “Well, this is it. Kiwi’s are going to take home the cup.” But then OTUSA continuously surprised us all. In the end, they won an unprecedented EIGHT RACES IN A ROW! in order to come back and win the regatta. Click here for the Results.
I won’t speculate here as to why OTUSA made such an amazing comeback, or why ETNZ lost in the end. I will only say that it was so exiting to be a part of that historic moment, in an amazing city with an amazing natural venue for watching the races. And most importantly for me, the members of both teams handled themselves with an incredible amount of dignity and sportsmanship. The members of both teams were all under an incredible amount of pressure, and yet they still managed to greet and sign a few autographs for their fans — yes, this fan included.
*45kts = 51.8mph. By comparison, our sailboat at it’s fastest will do about 12kts, or 13.8mph