WELCOME TO THE AMERICA'S CUP 2.0
By Craig Leweck, Scuttlebutt
The forecast was for big wind, or at least big for San Diego, for my 'ride along' on the Artemis Racing AC45. But instead it was one of those "it's never like this days". If it was a local regatta, nobody would have left the couch. But this was the America's Cup World Series, where people are paid to perform. And I had the only front row seat to the show.
"So who was it that thought San Diego was going to be a great idea?"
Artemis Racing skipper Terry Hutchinson was having one of those moments. We had begun the race strong, chasing only Oracle Racing's Jimmy Spithill for most of the race. But then came a leeward gate where we zigged instead of zagged, bleeding further along the upwind leg, and then were greeted with complete calm at the weather mark. We were now second to last when Hutchinson made his comment.
San Diego was having one of those moments too. A hovering front had brought steady rain and an easterly breeze. Both are not common, but it was November . the gateway for random winter winds. And the winds, not much by any standard, were streaming straight from downtown. The weather mark we sat beside was under the spectator pier. Fan friendly yes, but not wind friendly. Welcome to stadium sailing.
While f-bombs would have littered the language from most of us, Hutchinson offered something else. Either prophetic or completely delusional, he announced to the crew, "Guys, we're on the verge of a huge comeback." I thought it was just something you told the troops when you knew you were screwed, but didn't want them to give in yet. The fleet was sailing on, and we were sculling around the mark.
I saw very little to feel good about, but the team carried on. Like firemen losing ground on the flames, their persistence was the mark of professionals. And anyway, we were sailing the AC45, where a few knots of wind difference creates big differences in speed. These boats can provide hope to the hopeless.
Our suffering was nearing the end, with the final upwind leg ahead. The fleet was lined up like ducks, assuming their place. But rather than get in the line, aiming near the mark, we pointed elsewhere. Ahead I saw the Louis Vuitton VIP boat and the patrons of the Island Prime restaurant. At the time I would have preferred either to my perch, but tactician Iain Percy saw something better.the kind of puff only an Olympic gold medalist can see. And then it came.
I have heard that bad luck happens only to bad teams. Perhaps the opposite is true too. We tacked in the puff, and rode the elevator straight to the penthouse. Now rounding the same mark where Hutchinson had just moments earlier questioned the venue selection, he was laughing out loud. A short sprint later we finished first with the checkered flag flying.
It was the kind of rally that would have commentators screaming. Welcome to the America's Cup 2.0, where no lead is safe and comebacks are just one random puff away.