I had no idea what to expect, but was nervous and excited as I arrived at Pier 39’s Dock B and saw the USA 76. After a quick orientation we boarded the boat and ventured out of the harbor. I had the privilege of assisting the crew with multiple tasks throughout the sail. First I raised the main sail using one of the grinders which was quite a task because of the 115 foot mast height and massive sail. I got to time the start which felt like a lot of responsibility and definitely added to the anticipation. I had to yell out at 30 second intervals the remaining time until the starting gun would sound, which was a fun challenge because I’m generally more quiet. The start went reasonably well as we were the 2nd boat over the line after the TOMCAT.
Much to my surprise and delight they let me take the wheel on the first leg of the race. This was both frightening and exhilarating because most of my prior experience has been on FJ’s and 420’s. I learned that the USA 76 is a member of the International Americas Cup Class with a few small modifications including the metal safety rails along the perimeter. This particular boat was used by Oracle BMW racing to compete in the 2003 America’s Cup.
The race was conveniently timed between two storms, so the weather was actually not too bad. The wind came in from SSE at approximately 9mph, which is slightly above San Francisco’s average of 8mph in magnitude, but the south east direction was unusual. We finished in 6th place at 1:12:27 (PHRF adjusted to 1:23:46) after Bodacious, Zamazaan, California Condor, Tomcat, and Wicked Sister, all of which used spinnakers. I learned that the US Coast Guard has a restriction on sail area in the bay and consequently the USA 76 cannot use a spinnaker because of the excessive power it would create. The boat mainly lost time due to the fact that legs three and five were on a lay line, preventing USA 76 from using her greatest advantage: the ability to sail closer to the wind.
I am very thankful to Ellen Hoke, Golden Gate Yacht Club, and the USA 76’s crew for providing me with this fantastic experience, many new insights to sailing and an amazing unforgettable memory.
Posted: February 18, 2015 @ 4:14 pm