September 18, 2003|
Moet Cup on San Francisco Bay
Those who cheered for Oracle in the last America's Cup got a taste of "what could have been" this week on San Francisco Bay. The next best thing to actually holding the America's Cup on the Bay is this week's six day series between Cup winner Alinghi and Oracle.
The series is divided into Owner/Driver and Pro/Driver divisions, with one race each day, along the city's waterfront. All of the famous backdrops come into play: the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz Island, Angel Island, and if you're looking the other way, San Francisco and the Transamerica building, Fisherman's Wharf, Pier 39 and the Bay Bridge. With moderate seabreezes in September, it's an ideal time for racing on the Bay.
The pictures below capture the first race and the start of the second (and third!) on Thursday the 18th. Our own Gary & Pat Salvo, members of the Golden Gate Yacht Club Race Committee were working on the Race Committee boat for the day. Seventy spectator boats from inflatables with big outboards to 100 foot megayachts and sailboats in the same size range under sail and power, made up a very lively spectator fleet. Patrol boats even passed a red ribbon to tie on the backstay and some communication tips to early arrivals in the starting area. Race Management did a good job of herding them mostly out of the way, including ushering casual sailors off the course line. There were even two times that race start times were slightly delayed to let container ships pass through.
Classic America's Cup match racing ruled the day. Close, exciting starts began with the two boats entering "the box", coming from the course side of the starting line at opposite ends exactly at the five minute gun. Then the "dial-up" with both boats coming head to wind near the center of the line - waiting for one or the other to flinch first. Watching 80 foot sailboats go backwards at two knots is really interesting!!! Great crew work keeps them under control.
Oracle had a safe leeward start in the first race, but was not able to gain control and trailed at the first windward mark. She caught Alinghi on the second upwind leg when the boats split with Alinghi taking the shore - usually favored with a flood tide - while Oracle stayed out in the center of the Bay where there was more wind. Downwind, however, Alnghi showed her famous speed and edged inside Oracle. In a gybing duel, Oracle's spinnaker brushed the leech of Alinghi's main and thus earned a penalty. Alinghi had gained the lead at the leeward mark, and covered all the way to the finish. Oracle did her 360 penalty just after Alinghi got her winning gun.
In the second race dial-up, Oracle flew a white flag claiming that Alinghi had tacked to Starboard, but there was no Umpire present to make the call. Oracle gained control at the start and was then flying the usual red protest flag. They were both almost to Alcatraz before Race Management abandoned the race because no Umpire had been in place. Too bad for Oracle!
In the third start, Alinghi was just enough farther forward and to windward to control Oracle, and though Oracle threw two hard luffs and Alinghi finally had to tack away, the next time they met Alinghi, on starboard, tacked right on Oracle's bow, forcing her to tack away. Two more repeats of the duel and Alinghi had control and never let go.
It was a terriffic afternoon to be on the water, and hopefully many, many more people will get a chance to see these beautiful and powerful boats up close as these regattas take place around the world before the new Cup series.
Please forgive a few blurry pictures, included to maintain continuity, taken while motoring singlehandedly and taking pictures, sometimes from a mile away! If anyone else had pictures of the event, please send them along and they will be added. Here's a link to Gary Salvo's pictures: http://email@example.com
Rick Van Mell
|Oracle under tow||Oracle relaxing||Crew time||Alinghi arrives||Waiting for wind|
|Morning prayers?!||Still wind hunting||Main goes on boom||Crew heads aloft||Crew ready to lock main|
|Coming to life||Oracle sneaks up on Gary & Pat Salvo||Close aboard||Right on by!||Breeze fills in|
|Oracle up to speed||Alinghi reves up too||Oracle tests the leeward end||Headsail change||Dialed-up head to wind|
|Early!||Oracle quick tacks||Driving for the pin||Alinghi covers going right||Alinghi ahead & leeward|
|Alinghi asymetrical; Oracle full||Blasting past Angel Island||Alinghi tacks up City Front||Oracle stayed out||Oracle crosses in more pressure|
|Oracle leads into the mark||Both with full chutes||Oracle has just drawn penalty
note freighter to leeward
|Beating back past Alcatraz||The last leg|
|Oracle comes inshore||Alinghi to windward||Closing fast||Oracle tacks away||Alinghi heads for win|
|Setup for race 2||Entering the box||Way too early||Tacking for the line||Oracle in control|
|Power and grace||Speed demons||Camera boat chases||Smokin' past Alcatraz||Alinghi trails|
|Race 3 dial-up||Oracle off on port||Another corner start||This time it's Alinghi||Tight racing|
|Close luffing||Alinghi tacks away||Tacking duel doesn't help|
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