Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Summer Sailing in the USA–CA and NV

Lake Tahoe, San Francisco Bay, and Lake St. Clair
My seven weeks in the USA this summer were divided into three phases. In the first phase I was in Michigan with Dad, in the second phase I went to California and Nevada, and in the third phase I was back in Michigan. Lucky me, I was able to get some sailing in – as crew racing in local events, and as a spectator at a couple of international events.

Nevada 009
Upon my arrival in Nevada, I was invited by boat owner Greg Dyer, who saw on Facebook that I would be in town, to go Wednesday beer can racing on Lake Tahoe on his Melges 32, Intruder. The other crew members were three guys from North Sails in Minden, which is one of North’s big production lofts. The Swede named Pere looked about my age so I casually mentioned that I used to make sails way back in the 1970’s. For who? Turned out we both worked for the same sailmakers, just not at exactly the same time. In the small world of sailing, everyone knows the same people, so this isn’t really a surprise, but it’s still fun. The youngest guy, Rob, was very excited because he’d just been recruited to work for the Oracle America’s Cup campaign. Heady times!

Nevada 018

The wind was pretty gusty that evening, and we had some spinnaker issues so we didn’t win the race but nobody really cared. It’s a summer beer can. After the finish Greg said, “Anne, you drive.”

Nevada 021
So I took the helm while Greg went below to grab a round of beers. The spinnaker was up, it got windy, and pretty soon we were scooting along downwind, parallel to the east shore of Lake Tahoe … and away from our destination, the mooring ball at Marla Bay. Then the wind quit.

Intruder Lake Tahoe

Never mind, it was a beautiful evening and we still had a bit of daylight left. We ghosted around a bit, and I enjoyed my beer, trying not to spill it while keeping the wind vane pointing over my left shoulder. Next thing I knew we were moving again, and someone said, “Hey, how did you do that?” I looked forward, and we were headed right for Marla Bay. I pointed to the top of the mast and said “That’s my best friend.”

Me with A-Cup 1

A few days later, I was back in the San Francisco Bay Area, watching the AC 72’s battle it out for the Louis Vuitton Cup and the right to compete with Oracle USA for the America’s Cup. Anyone who has been watching this 34th America’s Cup unfold, from the announcement through the planning stages to the finals, which are still not over as I write this, knows what a roller coaster ride it has been.

Actually that’s a terrible analogy, because it’s been MORE than a roller coaster ride. This time, if Hollywood makes a movie about the America’s Cup and they base it on reality, it will be more exciting than anything they could have made up, with far more ups and downs than a roller coaster.

America's Cup LVC 005

But at the time I was there, things were looking grim. The Swedish team, Artemis, was out sailing for the first time since their tragic capsize and loss of life. They made a good showing but the Italians on Luna Rossa won both races, which were so short that they were over before I could get my head into the game.

SF Bay Area 007

The next week, I watched Emirates Team New Zealand and Luna Rossa race. Again, it was all over before my friend Lori and I could even finish our beer. The event venues were deserted minutes after the races were over. Although seeing the amazing AC 72’s in person was on my bucket list, overall the experience was a little underwhelming.

SF Bay Area 001

The timing of my trip prevented me from staying through the AC 34 Finals and, to be honest, the chatter from my local Bay Area friends was pretty darn negative. Nobody seemed to want Larry Ellison to win; they were rooting for the Kiwis! But then, everyone on both boats sounds like they are from Down Under anyway.

Besides all that, there is a difference between sailors who like multihulls and those who favor more traditional designs. Multihulls have a dangerous reputation among die-hard monohull sailors. They don’t handle well, and they can break apart. How fun is that? But, argue the proponents, they are so FAST! Or, if they are cruising sailors, they are so ROOMY! But if you read the history of the Auld Mug, none of this controversy is anything new.

americascupGETTYWhatever. Nobody is arguing any more that this America’s Cup isn’t breaking the mold, literally, and although I am half a globe away from the action I can hear people in San Francisco holding their breath, hoping for a race, and another and another because Oracle is now as good as ETNZ, which nobody thought could happen, and it’s some of the best, most exciting competition anybody has ever seen, in sailing or in any other sport, for that matter. If sports fans in the USA don’t catch on to sailing after this, then it’s hopeless, and they are just stuck in the dirt. This is X Games on steroids, and walking on water. Thank God Mark and I can watch it on the internet!

RYC Weds night 018

I did race a couple more beer can races in California. They were Wednesdays at Richmond Yacht Club, first with Commodore Gary Troxel on his Beneteau 423 Tiki Blue. Cap'n G is fun to race with and makes great post-race rum cocktails. But you have to be careful, or you could become "Troxelized."

RYC Weds night 020

Tiki is just across C-dock from Wildcard’s slip, which is sublet but empty now. I miss our boat!


The next Wednesday I got a call from Peter, our Australian Wildcard tactician who came to visit and rode to the top of the Burj Khalifa in Dubai with Mark and me in 2011 right after we moved to the UAE. Peter just bought a new J70 with a partner. Did I want to sail? Heck, yeah!


The J70 is 22.75 feet long, trailerable with a lifting keel, and hyped as “the fastest growing sailboat class worldwide.” Mark and I are looking at the possibility of getting a small boat to sail on Lake Tahoe, and I appreciated having the opportunity to sail the J70 … the little boat that is “taking the world by storm!” J/70 photos

Plus, I got see lots of friends at the RYC post-race grill-your-own dinner, where they always give out bottles of wine as prizes. I got a bottle for being the person who traveled farthest to the race.  It’s all good. 

And ... since I ran out of time and energy, the Lake St. Clair sailing will have to be another story.

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