The Sadistic Pleasure of America’s Cup. The Authors Collection.



Okay.  I admit that I’m watching the America’s Cup. Is anyone else?

To update you, this is the yachting event that seemed to have a lot going for it.  It was all within San Francisco Bay with the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz Island as backdrop.  For the first time, the entire course was close enough to shore that you could actually see (without television cameras) all the races without having a yacht at your disposal.

Robert B. Lowe
Robert B. Lowe

Then there are the state-of-the-art television effects.  Some of these were borrowed from other sports, like the imaginary first-down line that looks like it its painted on the football field but is actually just on your screen.  And, the blue flash that follows the hockey puck so non-experts have half a clue where it’s gone.  Combined, these let you see the sailing course with a start, finish, places to make the turns and out-of-bounds lines.  And you can actually tell where the boats are.

So, what’s wrong?

If there ever was a sport created for billionaires, lawyers and engineering nerds, this is it.

First, the original design of the boats was futuristic enough.  Huge catamarans.  Fixed, mostly solid mainsails that resemble a jetliner wing sticking up.  I mean there are separate steering wheels at the back of each pontoon.  The skipper runs back and forth to steer as the boats change direction, tacking and lifting up one side or the other out of the water.

Then one of the competitors spotted a loophole in the rules which enabled the addition of a hydrofoil element.  So now the 7-ton boats can rise up out of the water on relatively tiny strips protruding from the bottom of the pontoons.  Yes.  They do look like they’re flying and they do go much faster.  But this development occurred less than a year ago and all the competitors had to add them, learn how to use them and then pray their boats would stand up to the additional speeds and strain without breaking down.  It’s like changing the shape of the football a few weeks before the NFL season begins.

What’s happened so far?

None of the races have been close.  And, because of the cost of the boats and the few entries, some preliminary series have been sailed unopposed with a single boat on the course.  What?

In the current semi-finals, the outcome has been decided as much by mechanical failure as by actual sailing superiority.  And when both boats have survived equipment breakdowns, it seems clear that pure boat speed is the deciding factor that neither tactics or sailing expertise can overcome.  That’s what happens when new technology gets thrown in at the last minute.  There are big disparities in the equipment.

DivineFury-3dLeftI used to think of the America’s Cup as akin to the Monte Carlo Grand Prix.  Suave drivers consuming martinis and Dom Perignon in the evenings and jumping into their sleek Ferraris (sans hydrofoils) and scarves in the morning.   But now the America’s Cup is like the funny car races where vehicles that are more manned rockets than cars blast off at unbelievable speed and often blow up on the track.

So why am I watching this debacle?  Well, there is the train wreck phenomenon.  Can it get any worse?  Perhaps a boat has such a massive failure that it forfeits not just a race but the entire series. I mean two wrecks and the America’s Cup is over.  It could happen.  And then there is simply the sadistic pleasure of listening to the announcers try to convince the audience that there actually is some competitive sporting event occurring amid all this.

The America’s Cup has clearly crossed the line.  Let’s just consider it an extreme sport now and make it part of the X Games.

(The author’s Enzo Lee Mystery Thriller Series is based in San Francisco, his adopted home.) 

Please click the book cover to read more about Robert B. Lowe’s novel, Divine Fury, on Amazon.

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  • Caleb Pirtle

    Many years ago, I wrote a magazine article on sailboat racing in Chesapeake Bay and was amazed. Sitting on shore, sailboat races are beautiful by slow-moving and even boring. However, inside the boat, the action is frenetic and never slows down. It gave me a whole new perspective on sailboat racing and America’s Cup.

    • You have never been near a boat if you say that sailboat racing is boring! I’ll show you some sailboat racing that will scare you half to death because I am an excellent sailor. I am very, very good at it and I have sailed all over, probably much more than you.

      • Abdul Singh

        No Jame! You no near on boat. slow old man I go so fast on boat at weekeend. faster than you slow old man boat. Is Rubbiss! Rubbiss and slow, not fast

  • Bob, I’m not sure exactly what it is about your post that reminds me of the digital revolution in publishing. Maybe it’s the new technology and the possibility of some major shipwrecks.

    • Darlene Jones

      I’m with you, Stephen, on this one. I think we’re seeing the shipwrecks on the horizon.

    • Hey, Stephen. Pipe down you don’t know sh1t about boats. I know the most about boats.

  • I agree that allowing the hydrofoils at the last minute (figuratively speaking) was a huge mistake. These boats take years to design and test then they still often break. Think of the one that broke in two and sank in San Diego a few years ago.

    The rules should be set on concrete before any boats are built. Yes, changes would happen less often, but the up side might be real racing.

    As a life-long sailor, a downside I deplore is that, to the non-sailing public, the impression is that racing is what sailing is about. It is an aspect, to be sure, but sailing is far more than racing.

    • Abdul Singh

      You be the slow sailer if can’t race! I am fast sailer and good sailer but best sailer?I best sailer may be lol. It not you!

      • There are many sailors that do not race and are not slow sailors. If you are a cruiser, being able to get an extra 1/4 or 1/2 knot of average boat speed on a long passage it will make a large difference in your trip. In point of fact, most sailors do not race and may have little or no interest in it. Yes, little impromptu casual contests between boats may happen, but that is far from real racing.

        • Abdul Singh

          lol James! Yes! 1/2 gamtha gati not fast. we race I win may be? Yes! lol! I win sailering

          • Based on your comments, I seriously doubt that you have ever even been on a sailboat.

          • Abdul Singh

            No Jame! You no go on boat. I go on boat fast not you

          • You ignorant moron. You know nothing abut me. I have done deliveries of sailboats all over the world and have been sailing for almost 50 years. I have lived on my boats and likely have sailed more in a year than you have in your entire life.

            I have also taught sailing to hundreds of students, written a book for beginning sailors and earned my “salt.” What have yu done?

            Go away, your lack of knowledge and unwarranted assumptions are disgusting.

          • Abdul Singh

            Jame you not like truth and boat look slow. You slow Jame! You come last Jame, maybe, well yes, you slow sailering

          • Hey Abdul, how about you come to my place so I can beat you off?

          • This was another of those cowardly internet commands, faking my ID. If this asshole faces me, I’ll beat him into a bloody bag of broken bones.

            Abdul, you are stupid and worthless, too.

          • Abdul Singh

            Jame! You be sad that you slow. i sorry you slow Jame, maybe lol! but you are not fast

  • Yes, I am the best sailor so STKU and KMA

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