BACK HOME AND SAILING on the bay, we encountered the Oracle Team USA catamaran on trial runs preparing for the 34th America's Cup Challenge. They will compete against New Zealand in a best-of-17 series beginning on September 7th. The two boats have been practicing on the bay, improving their high speed handling while fine tuning the on-board equipment to get maximum performance under racing conditions.
These 72-foot catamarans are very similar in design and both are big and powerful capable full speeds up to 50mph on their racing foils. Under extreme stress they have sustained damaged rudders, foils, daggerboards, sails, and wing coverings, so it's a big task for their shore crew to analyze, modify and retest the boat constantly.
On this occasion we were sailing along the waterfront as Oracle's big AC72 approached from our stern. We watched as she sailed past Telegraph Hill and Coit tower, the San Francisco skyline and the Ferry Building, before she caught us in the shadow of the Bay Bridge. With those big sails she approached quickly as we sailed at 5 knots in the light wind. Hmm.. could we beat her to the bridge? Hah!
As she passed by we saw a crew member on the bowsprit examining the hull. Perhaps they've made a modification and were testing it. After passing us their support boat came alongside - possibly to discuss their findings. Certainly each team will keep searching for a competitive advantage right up to that first race!
These boats are so exciting to see in person, especially when we're sooo close!!