A set of completely unplanned circumstances meant all our ‘ducks were in a row’, ready to quack for a bloody brilliant day.
We got to Bermuda. The America’s Cup was about to start on Friday. We hadn’t planned this. Fab, let’s get some tickets for Saturday and go as gang with a couple of other boat crews. Americans supporting Oracle but you can’t have everything!
Friday’s schedule was cancelled because of high winds meaning the opening ceremony and the start of racing was pushed back to Saturday. So we’d get to see the start of racing, the red bull sky divers, a Wyclef Jean concert, (he’s a rapper and was surprisingly good!) and have the opening ceremony thrown in for good measure. Plus a whole day in the village with big screens, displays and information from the 6 competing teams, great access to the waterfront, with the finish line just in front of everybody.
Dave and I, normally unswayed by marketing and pizazz, even bought T shirts to support the British Team. Glad, we did, but more about that later.
There were 6 races, one after another. All head to heads with Mr Ainslie and his boys on Land Rover BAR racing against Artemis from Sweden and later SoftBank from Japan. Artemis appeared to have been the form team in practice races but Ben and the boys showed then a clean pair of heels although the Swedes were pressing them down the home straight. Our strategy was to watch most of the race on the big screen then dash about 100m to the water front to see the finish. Viewing live was great with lots of space and watching on the screen showed all the close up action plus fancy graphics helped me understand what was going on.
The second race for the Brits was not so successful as the Japanese boat was tearing towards the start line, with much greater speed. The Brit boat tried to hold its line but the boats collided and BAR were penalised for not getting out of the way. The bigger penalty was a damaged boat so I guess the shore team had a pretty busy night last night repairing the carbon fibre hole.
The boats are remarkable to watch, particularly the speeds they reach and how on the edge they constantly appear. It’s not sailing as we know it by any stretch of the imagination. You could argue it’s not even about water because the concept is to lift the boat out of the water so it appears to be flying with the minimum of contact with the sea.
After the high octane excitement of sailing and collisions, we watched the concert and the Red Bull Sky Divers who came in to land so quickly you could hear the crowd unanimously take a sharp intake of breath. One guy landed on a 40 -50 foot pontoon just in front of the crowd. It was mind blowing at such speeds.
The final piece for the day was the opening ceremony. Who would you like to stand next to and chat to from the whole crowd, corporate guests, film stars like Michael Douglas or maybe one of the boat crew to watch the proceedings? How about Ben Ainslie and his wife? That’s who we got or looking at it the other way, that’s what they got!
We were stood in the thick of the crowd a little way from the stage, close to a cordoned off area in front of the av technical bods. The village volunteers used a rope right next to us to establish a clear corridor so there was a route through the crowd to access this cordoned area. All the Boat crews started arriving down this thoroughfare to high fives and applause and congregated in holding area for the start of proceedings. Who ended up standing next to us……Ben and his wife.
We had a little chat and they were impressed we’d sailed from England. Or so they said. She was lovely and chatty and I think he probably wanted to get the ceremony over with and get back to their accommodation in preparation for the following days racing. He’s the face of BAR Land Rover so people want to meet him, have photos taken, autographs signed etc. It’s a big responsibility.
So those t shirts came in useful. What a gobsmackingly brilliant day.