Thursday, November 02, 2006

All in a day

Friday is clean-up day at Scuttlebutt World Headquarters; a chance to get caught up. With the next publishing deadline not until Sunday evening, Friday can also provide a chance to slip out of the office and check in with sport. Last Friday, with the Allianz Cup happening in San Francisco - marking the return of the World Match Racing Tour to the US - I decided to fly up from San Diego to check it out.

Catching the first flight of the day to Oakland, I arrived at St Francis Yacht Club just in time for my ride with America’s Cup skipper Peter Holmberg in the scheduled Pro-Am races. These races are a frequent feature on the tour, where each boat is led by a Tour professional that has the task of directing a crew of sponsor personnel, raffle winners, and media folks (like me) around the course, spinnakers and all. These races do wonders to bring the excitement of the event to the people who are supporting it, actually getting them off the bleachers and exposing them to the onboard action.

While some of the teams seemed a bit more focused on winning, Holmberg handled our boat more like a J/World class. He didn’t steer (most other pros did), and with the help of only one of his match race crew, they carefully handled the crew, and guided our J/105 upwind to the weather mark, and then downwind for the finish. After three races, we hadn’t done too well, but no one got hurt, and everyone got a chance to experience the type of sailing that occurs on the tour.

The St Francis Yacht Club provided an ideal location for the event. The club is right on the water, and the racing is just off the club, providing perfect spectating. The day seemed as much a show as it was a regatta. The schedule included an acrobatic airshow, complete with a play-by-play announcer and in-cockpit
communication. Loud speakers supported the color commentary for the races, with multiple video cameras providing a live feed for website viewing (click here for videos).

There was plenty to do and see, with famous folks all over the club and docks. Heck, even the yacht America, which has been recently based in San Diego, was on hand. It was hard to pry myself away, as I could have easily stayed through the weekend. But the racing was over, the press conference was completed, the kegs were dry. Time to catch my cab, so I could catch the BART train, so I could catch the bus, so I could get to Oakland airport to catch my flight back to San Diego. All in a day. - Craig Leweck, Scuttlebutt

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