Monday, August 27, 2012

Boats Old & New

It's difficult to ignore anything combining speed, size and daring. So despite my fairly passing interest in competitive sailing and its players, I was among those captivated by the America's Cup which took place in the San Francisco Bay this weekend. On the third day of the four-day event we rode the ferry over to Pier 41 and walked to Hyde St Pier for a somewhat immersive day in old and new boat culture, with some old-and-new music thrown in for good measure. Playing tourist in our own town, the added bonus of the day was appreciating San Francisco anew.
To add to the festivities, Hyde St Pier played host to a Sea Music Festival on Saturday and a wide array of chantey singers, balladeers, fiddlers, Maori, French and Chinese dance troupes and piratical bands could be heard amid (and on) the historic ships. As a small group of song catchers traded tunes in the middle of the deck of Balclutha, the 19th Century ship moored at the Pier, we huddled with a small bunch of race viewers on the old steel-hulled ship's bridge. Balclutha turned out to be a slightly secret but great place to view the Cup racers duking it out on the Bay. While larger crowds of fans had either gathered at Marina Green (site of the official 'race village') or sailed their own boat out on the water to watch the race from the front lines, our small crew listened to a live radio broadcast of the action as the ultra-modern wing-sailed AC45s zipped between the race gates beyond Aquatic Park. The Bay was buzzing with helicopters, Coast Guard Boats, and hundreds of more ordinary sailboats. In contrast, the AC45s looked more aeronautical than nautical with their ultra-aerodynamic sails. Surrounded as we were by such old ships, the AC45s seemed almost alien. The racing itself — strategic, athletic and subject to wind and weather — was that much more impressive.
All of this is of course a warm-up for 2013 when the teams will race even bigger boats (72 ft, is that possible?).

No comments: