The International America’s Cup Yacht USA-76 came into San Francisco last week, and as part of a promotional effort that will ultimately lead to both this fast yacht, and the replica of the yacht America, as a kind of “Disney” ride on the San Francisco Bay. A perfect attraction to get San Franciscans and visitors to San Francisco ready for the 2013 America’s Cup, which the City By The Bay will host.
USA-76, currently owned by Brad Webb and ACsailingSF, was most famously helmed by Oracle Founder Larry Ellison, and used by the BMW Oracle Racing Team in their preparations to win the challenger series and won the right to challenge for the 2007 America’s Cup that was held in Valencia, Spain.
On Friday, this blogger was part of a group of media and others invited to The Golden Gate Yacht Club to ride on both the replica of the yacht America, and on USA-76. When Larry Water, the skipper of the yacht asked “Who wants to drive the yacht,” I said, “I do.” And the rest is history.
Never done it before at all.
Frankly, helming USA 76, originally built for the 2003 America’s Cup race, is unlike anything I’ve ever done in my life. When you grab the wheel of the yacht, you’re aware that you’re in control of something big, fast, and yet very responsive. What I had to get used to what that the yacht was leaning at a very high speed – about 30 knots. And at that point we were getting a nasty cross-wind, as well.
My thought during that point in time is “You know, I’m going to tip this thing into the drink and they’re going to sue me.” But I kept at the helm for about five minutes or so, or until I figured it was time to give it up to someone else.
Which is another way of saying I lost my nerve.
But it’s a drug: you fear what can happen, but you want to do it again. I can see how people who work in the business of sailing get hooked on it.
The other thing I got used to was getting wet; which didn’t happen to me much at all. I was wearing loose-fitting khaki shorts, which kept whatever dampness that had developed away from my butt.
Tell you what, if boat owner Brad Webb and his guys give me another chance to helm USA-76, I’m jumping forward to do it.
Larry Ellison’s got nothing on me!