America's Cup: Straddled by the Big Boats

Pierre-Yves Droz
Close encounters of the Artemis kind
Sailing club members taking a boat out this weekend to observe the America's Cup races while  being dive-bombed by the Fleet Week aircraft were handed a good-sized pamphlet. It could have been titled "How to Navigate the Armada of Drunken, Inexperienced Boaters You Will Encounter."

There's no way to tell for certain, but the collective blood alcohol level on the bay was a lot lower than the writers of the pamphlet feared it might be. A couple of young guys zipping about on a boat called the "Smokin' J" were, in fact, very responsible and quick-thinking. And while there were certainly a lot of boats, it was hardly a parking lot out there.

Your humble narrator is no sailor. This was my third time on a sailboat since age 3. And, like that young voyage, this one involved a hefty dose of Dramamine and a subsequent dizzy nap below deck (I was jolted awake when our small boat rocked like a bathtub toy in the wake of a paddlewheel steamer -- a first for me). Another first was being passed like we were standing still by a pair of America's Cup catamarans.

Most everyone who didn't flee San Francisco over the weekend can relate to the experience of fighter jets, cargo planes, or even a lumbering 747 soaring ominously low overhead. Well, that all happened to those bobbing about the bay, too.

The highlight of the weekend was something you couldn't have done on dry land. Out on the water, the America's Cup vessels stand out like basketball players navigating a normal-sized crowd. En route to the starting line, the catamarans sail through the assemblage of weekend boats, which is a nice touch. A pair of racing vessels from the Artemis team approached us. They deftly split, and straddled us, each passing only 15 yards or so from our small boat as they blasted past us toward Marina Green. It's worth noting that both boats shot past with perhaps seven times our velocity while riding the same wind and current.

Pierre-Yvez Droz

Say what you will about the America's Cup -- and we have, again and again -- but this was a fairly breathtaking experience. As for who won the race, no one much cared about that (Apparently, however, it was a good day for the home team). I can't profess much interest in the outcome of the Indianapolis 500 either, but being straddled by race cars on the way to the stadium would have been notable.

All told, it was a fairly glorious "transitpocalypse" weekend in the city. But let us not speak of baseball. There's not enough Dramamine to solve that problem.

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