The Harbor Report: A cub reporter at America's Cup

Years ago, I was a bartender, and on Monday nights, a fat lady would come in and sing "Ebb Tide" to close the night's karaoke and the bar.

After watching the Kiwis dominate Oracle Team USA in three of four races last Saturday and Sunday at the America's Cup, I flashed back to those painful moments at the bar and to Monday Night Football when Don Meredith would sing, "Turn out the lights, the party is over."

Let's just hope that Team USA can win one more race so we don't go down in history losing the Cup with a negative number. I am assuming you knew that Team USA was accessed a penalty, negative two points, for a rules infraction before the event even started.

OK, so that's the bad news. Let's talk about the good news. The streets of San Francisco were full of people wearing America's Cup shirts and hats. It started to feel as though there were Kiwi supporters on every corner.

One New Zealand couple walked up to us with a bunch of bananas, and I had to ask him if they were for good luck. He said, "I am handing them out to the Americans. Would you like one?" Bananas have a long tradition of bringing bad luck to sailors and fishermen.

Later that night, I ran into a couple of friends who brought up the fact that this could be the last opportunity to watch the Cup in California for quite some time. That's when it really hit me how lucky I am to have been able to attend this event.

The San Francisco Bay and the race organizers delivered on a promise that the bay would provide the best accessibility to view the racing in AC history. On the first day of racing, I was on a mark-set boat between Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge. We had front-row seats for the starting line and the top end of the race course.

On Saturday, races one and two, the wind had picked up well above the forecast, and when the Kiwis first lit the boat up and started hydrofoiling, only about 50 yards away from the boat I was on, the words, "Oh yeah baby, this is what it's all about," came out of my mouth. In my mind, this was heaven's gate for sailboat racing.

I wanted to get a fresher perspective, and I started looking around the boat for the kid who looked like a sailing enthusiast. This is when I met 12-year-old Oscar Moeller from Germany. When I asked Oscar what had brought him to the AC, he replied, "I like catamarans. My father and I sail on an Eagle 16 on the lakes at home."

He went on to tell me that he also participates in the junior program at his yacht club and sails Optis. His parents had lived in New Zealand for a couple of years, and he was pulling for the Kiwis to win. After the races, I walked back up to him to see if he liked the racing and he replied, "Yes, because we won." I then inquired why the Kiwis won, and he said, "Because we are better."

I asked again about the boats. "The boats are best for me."

The passion for the sport of sailing was just pouring out of Oscar. That made me feel better even if we were down by four points with only two races sailed.

On Sunday, I watched the races from America's Cup Park at Club 72, which is in front of the finish line, and spent most of the time observing the races on the monitor. This time, I walked through the crowd looking for youth sailors from America.

This took some time, and it appeared I would only be able to find a sailor from New Zealand. Finally, I spotted 15-year-old Alex Kost from Redwood, who had an American flag draped over his back.

Alex is a rower at heart but sails with his dad on Merit 25s. He has only been sailing for the last three years and was enthusiastic about the catamarans. When I asked him if he was an Oracle fan, he replied, "Oh yeah, big Oracle fan!" I then asked who his favorite sailer was, and he said, "I am a Jimmy Spithill fan; he is a good skipper."

Next, I asked if he liked the catamarans. "Definitely," he said. "Different than normal AC sailing. It gets a lot more people to come out here to San Francisco Bay and watch it. There is a lot more action. So I think it's good. I like it."

Alex felt that the downwind legs, when the boats are reaching 40-plus knots, was the most thrilling part of the race. He plans on racing the Merit 25 with his dad and will spend most of his time rowing on the water over the next few years.

For me, the racing was fantastic. Were there opportunities for the trailing boat to pass? Yes, although these opportunities occurred more because of boat handling than missing a wind shift.

Another new opportunity came my way, and that was being able to attend and observe the press conferences. Early on, I missed opportunities to talk with sailing legends such as Brad Butterworth by reacting too slow and feeling too intimidated to ask questions.

By the end of the weekend, I had shaken most of this fear and talked with AC historian and journalist Bob Fisher. At the morning press conference, as soon as I raised my hand, the mic was given to me. I started to get a lot more comfortable at this reporting thing.

Sea ya.

LEN BOSE is an experienced boater, yacht broker and boating columnist.

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