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Thursday, September 26, 2013


usa (black) new zealand (red)

The America's Cup racing ended yesterday with an American win. I watched videos of five of the races, the 19th the last. The ones I saw were 6, 7, 15, 16 and 19.. To say a sailboat race was exciting sounds like saying a toad race is. I've always liked to see America's Cup races on tv, though seldom have. I recall the beautiful, sleek boats of the Fifties and Sixties, much like the slick Indy cars of that time. Along came the computer; boats and cars changed, as did planes and everything else. This year the boats were catamarans with 130 foot masts. The only difference I could see between the two boats were the size of what I think I remember called jibs, the small sail in front of the tall sail. They were different sizes, and a little bit different shapes. These were hi-tech to the present moment. Instead of the hulls skimming over the water, the catamarans had thin blades with a little wing at the bottom that sliced through the water raising the hulls of the catamarans into the air for nearly no resistance. These boats sliced through the water at 45 to 50 mph in a good wind. The skill of the dozen or so people operating each boat equaled a pit crew in NASCAR races changing tires, filling up gas, peeling a layer of windshield film, in twelve to fourteen seconds. The crew on these sailboats never stopped their all-out physical activity. They had to go into this race with a great deal of physical stamina, at least as much as it would take to play a soccer match or basketball.

I found it actually thrilling to watch the sailboats cut the water, leaving two narrow wakes that look like contrails from above. I have a powerful love for sailboats. They have attracted my attention all my life. I love their beauty, that the America's Cup sailboats are every year the cutting edge of the latest technology on aero and hydro dynamics at sea. A psychic told me I had a lifetime as a pirate in the North African part of the Atlantic and Mediterranean in the 13th Century. This is the only explanation I can figure for why I've loved sailboats since childhood, like I loved pirate movies in childhood. Even liked to dress as a pirate for Halloween. I've been on a few small sailboats, just enough to find that learning to sail is complex and fun, too complex for casual sailing. There is the truth that a boat is a hole in the water you throw money in, and I've never had nor wanted enough money to throw a large portion of it away. I like documentaries about circumnavigation in a sailboat for one. I think of that something like the Adamson's in East Africa knowing lions so well they could trust their knowledge to keep them safe among lions. Setting out to go around the tip of South Africa and the tip of South America in suicidal rough seas takes knowledge so subtle that the one operating the boat has full confidence in understanding the sea, the wind, the boat and self. It takes comfort with solitude to circumnavigate the globe solo.

The America's Cup racing teams are hyper athletic. One of them on the American team was said to be a winner of four Olympic gold medals. These are people dedicated to racing boats like NASCAR drivers dedicate every moment to racing. These people stand out in front of everybody else in their field. It takes dedication and work to get there and to stay there. They verge on flawless like the car race pit crews and our tv football games. Pro football is so tight by now that winning is a matter of making the least mistakes. It's the same with baseball. It's the skill I watch when I see a tv football game or baseball game. I see somebody hit a home run with a ball that he has to decide whether to swing at or let it go by the moment the ball leaves the pitcher's hand, the ball going 90mph. I wouldn't even see the ball. If I'd been on one of those catamarans, there would have been no place for me to get out of the way but to jump over the side. No room for passengers. The best thing for me to do is go to youTube, write americas cup 2013 in the box and pick a race to see. According the to the two men doing the talking during the race, moment by moment, like talking about car races, intelligent guys who understood high speed catamaran racing, America's Cup, the history, the rules, this may have been the most neck and neck race since the beginning. I'd rather see the youTube video than actually to have seen it from the shore of San Francisco Bay amidst the throng of people, parked cars, two sails in the near and far distance, mostly far, and that's it. I liked listening to these two guys talk about it for their knowledge.

 The American team came back from starting out with eight losses, and made that up plus the one, race 19, it took to win. Congratulations to the American crew. The New Zealand crew deserves congratulations for being so difficult to defeat. The crew was the equal of the American crew and the boats equal, too. The American crew took awhile to get in tune, but when they got there, they were unstoppable. It came down to race nineteen neck and neck. Even to have lost that race doesn't mean much. It was only by 35 or 40 seconds. That's not even a minute behind. The two teams and the two boats were so equal that it made a truly exciting race. The two men doing the talking were blown away by what good races these were. One read a tweet they'd received from somebody who said something to the effect of -- you never told me your sport was like this! The announcer said, "It's not like in your grandfather's day," meaning, I presume, the Fifties when America's cup was a sailboat race before catamarans and computer designs. Then, the hull rode on the water; now knife blades slice the water while the hull, itself, streamlined as a knife blade, flies above the surface. Watching the boats fly over the water brought to mind watching two NASCAR drivers running around a curve side by side at 150, perfect control. This sailboat race represented for me the image of near perfect control of self, as close as is humanly possible this year.



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