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America’s Cup: Sailing Competition Transformed

In October I was sailing with Larry Ledgerwood on San Franciso Bay when ghosts appeared. Spectral black, moving over the water at an unearthly speed. There were two of them. One minute they were in front of Fisherman’s Wharf. The next they were gone under the [being rebuilt] Bay bridge. I wondered if it was a mirage.

“No” Larry said. “Those are the Oracle practice boats.” Practice? “Those are 45 feet. The real thing is 72 and goes twice as fast.”

Like over 50 mph.

You know the America’s Cup. 10 metre sailboats owned by the superrich and representing countries like New Zealand, Italy, Australia or the Nation of Oracle – led by Larry Ellison. Used to be conducted off shore and those who watched were either on big yachts themselves or looking at TV. Everyone would be mystified until with winner was announced and everyone came into port.

Boy, has all that changed! First,the boats. I held a piece of “sail” at the Oakland Yacht Club – where Larry is a National level instructor. The piece came from the first Oracle “small” boat that exploded in the early fall on a trial run. Bouncing along near the Golden Gate at 45 mph, the catamaran on one sponson – already airborne [they’re designed to fly on a hydrofoil] jumped off one crest and plowed into another – sending it ass over teakettle – “pitch polling” in the trade. Bodies, pieces flying everywhere.

Click for the youtube video:

So the airfoil chunk of mainsail came from that – picked up from the litter of a practice wreck. It was an incredible piece of carbon fibre engineering enclosing compressed wafer, light as a feather, but very strong. Lucky it was not the $7.8 m flagship! Plainly, this was not your sailboat for the white blazer and deck shoes! In another more tragic accident, there was a fatality from the Swedish boat.

These races will be held in September and, in another break with tradition, will appear on TV with a whole suite of fantastic overlay software designed to make the arcane biz of sail racing readily explicable to the lay viewer.

But don’t blink. Races that used to take hours will now be 40 minutes of heart-pounding action. The crew have to be real athletes who are taxed to the max the whole time. And they will be right in front of everyone with a TV or access to the SF waterfront.

Don’t miss it – this redefines a traditional pursuit. Who knew sailing could be a blood sport?

Doug Bouey
Catalyst Strategic Consultants Ltd.

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Doug Bouey, President
Catalyst Strategic Consultants Ltd.

Calgary, AB // Phone: 403.777.1144


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