What’s America’s Cup you ask? I had no idea either before I traveled to San Francisco to find out. All I knew before attending Louis Vuitton’s Cup, the qualifying races leading up to America’s Cup, was that it was an elite sailing tournament held every three years. Come to find out, it’s the oldest trophy in international sport, dating back to 1851, when Queen Victoria of England commissioned the first race. It is steeped in tradition and prestige, but this year, for the first time in its 162-year history, the racing boats are high-tech 72-foot catamarans with 12-story high sails.
Since I’m not particularly into sailing, although incredible to witness the crews’ athleticism furiously working to cross the finish line, I found a few other reasons, beyond the love of the sport, to attend. Here are 6 unorthodox reasons to head to San Francisco to watch an America’s Cup race:
1. Witness World’s First ‘Flying’ Boats
With speeds up to 40 mph, this is no leisurely weekend sailing excursion. It requires a team of 11 racing back and forth across the boat to maneuver the turns of the race course and manage the changing weather patterns – all while avoiding capsizing (these specific boats, because of the 12-story sails, are particularly prone to capsize). It fact, the physical challenges and dangers racing in this year’s America’s Cup are likened to climbing Mount Everest, according to Team Oracle USA’s skipper, Jimmy Spithill. America’s Cup athletes’ uniforms consist of a crash helmet, knives, an impact vest/life preserver and an emergency oxygen canister. But, it’s truly mind-blowing to watch as the wind lifts the vessel off the water – literally flying roughly 10-feet above the water.
2. Grind Like a Pro
Think you’ve got what it takes to be a professional grinder (grinders are responsible for changing the sails’ direction)? Try your hand at sailing an actual America’s Cup racing yacht, utilized by the U.S. team in 2003, with ACSailingSF. The three-hour sailing excursion out on the San Francisco Bay is hands-on, offering a glimpse of what it’s like to be a crew member, minus the hardcore uniform. It includes a jaunt under the Golden Gate, and if you’ve never seen the underbelly of the bridge, she’s a beauty to behold.
3. Unusually Posh Sporting Event Shopping
Souvenirs at most sporting events include classy things like sports team logo emblazoned t-shirts, keyrings and foam fingers (now forever tainted due to a former Disney star’s scandalous performance). At America’s Cup, it’s like souvenir shopping Monte Carlo-style. Stock up on the special edition Louis Vuitton San Francisco Neverfull Tote Bag (available only at America’s Cup), oil paintings of America’s Cup vessels with the city’s skyline in the background or Alexander McQueen high top sneakers by Puma.
4. Watch TV from a Giant Bean Bag Lounge
Located on Pier 27/29 of San Francisco’s Embarcadero district, watch the race in front of a huge TV screen while reclining on the dozens of red bean bags available first come, first serve. Bean bag toss games also surround the lounge.
Channel you inner sailor with a Yachtsman Manhattan or Waterfront Negroni at the America’s Cup Sports Bar. The 12,000 foot temporary bar, just beyond the finish line at Pier 27, offers mighty fine tipples. A champion in his own right, the bar’s cocktail menu was designed by local mixologist Scott Beattie. It’s an extensive, 20-item menu, utilizing many local spirits like St. George, and divvied into six sections: Agaves, Negronis, Angry Ginger Bucks, Manhattans, Old Fashioneds and Specialty Cocktails.
6. Learn New Vocabulary for Words With Friends
Know your jib from your gybe? You will after a stroll through the interactive exhibition in America’s Cup Village explaining yacht racing terminology. I cannot wait to play all the new words I’ve picked up at America’s Cup. For instance, lazarette, the word for boat storage in the stern, is going to score major Word With Friends points.
America’s Cup Finals, with New Zealand and U.S. teams still in the race, are September 7 – 21.
Photo Louis Vuitton shop at America’s Cup, courtesy of Louis Vuitton. Photo of Prada boat is from the Louis Vuitton race, they are no longer in the finals, but it gives you an idea of the size of the racing catamarans in the race.
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