[SAILING ILLUSTRATED's newest esteemed contributor, Stacie Brandt (USA, Newport Beach) is a teammate with your Ed. on the Andrews 50 IT'S OK! that we campaign with a great group of sailors, mostly Balboa YC friends, in Southern California and Mexico. Stacie is in Bermuda for a few days, and early this morning she filed this colorful report – we hope the first of several! It always amazes me how some lawyers are such good writers. ;) –TFE]
Bermuda! The America’s Cup is here! It greets you at the airport in the immigration line with a countdown clock and welcomes all to Bermuda’s America’s Cup! Every store in town features America’s Cup somethings to buy, from stylish bright red Bermuda shorts to plates and hats and belts. Bermuda’s Premier, Michael Dunkley, posted on Instagram Saturday morning: “America’s Cup was every success we’d hoped. The World is seeing Bermuda in all our glory as the gem of the Atlantic.”
I watched two of the last races of the day from the official America’s Cup venue at the Royal Naval Dockyards, but everyone watching from home could see more than I could, although there are huge screens all over the venue. I offer some initial impressions about other things.
Bermuda is startlingly beautiful. It seems unchanged from decades ago when I was last here – the water is that stunning pellucid blue turquoise violet, and the houses tumble over the hillsides in glowing pastels. It is warm and humid. The event venue is paved in hot concrete and hotter asphalt, with shade available mostly for those who paid extra for seats under shade or in by-ticket-only pubs and champagne cafes. Bermuda’s gentle cooling breezes seem not to find their way to the Dockyards.
The races are exciting and the crowds enthusiastic. Dockyards spectators have the best view of the finish line and also a good view of the leeward gates, but not the windward marks. Yesterday Ainslie’s (Great Britain) first finish against Outterridge (Sweden) was closer than expected, with Ainslie finishing 11 seconds ahead, and the crowd cheered as they came in. Eleven seconds is a fair distance of separation at 40 kts, although with the boats pointing right to the Dockyards spectators as they come into the finish, it is hard to gauge the distance, but exciting to watch.
The spectators roared again when Ainslie’s cat mounted Barker’s (Japan), and we were relieved that no one was hurt.
The boats all make a quick turn at the end of the finish line, which results in a huge rooster tail splash - like a water skier’s, but bigger. I suspect the turn is necessary to keep the boats from plowing into the Dockyards, but the crowd is excited every time. The atmosphere is like the infield at Indy, or, I imagine, the Kentucky Derby or countless other sporting spectacles.
The standings. The teams completed six races yesterday, with the six teams each racing twice. They will all race every other team twice in this initial double round robin to determine the last place challenger team, which will not proceed. France is so far the only team with two losses and no points. US is the only team which won both races yesterday, against France and New Zealand. Great Britain leads with three points because they carried two points in from the racing over the last two years. The teams are mostly referred to by the event announcers by their primary sponsors’ names – Oracle, Emirates, Land Rover, Artemis, contributing to the commercialism of the enterprise.
The spectators are diverse and include many Bermudians, at least on the first Saturday. Bermuda has 60,000 residents, so 11,000 at the Dockyards is far more significant than the Cup was to San Francisco in 2013. Most are probably not yachting enthusiasts. On the ferry over, one spectator explained to his friend he thought they would be racing one-on-one today, indicating he may have expected another racing format on other days. The spectators wave flags, mostly of Bermuda and New Zealand, and cheer for their country’s team. The French have a raised platform near their headquarters set with white tablecloths and china; one wonders how well they can see from there, but the food is probably excellent.
Other diversions. There is some artificial grass to sit on. Also, while strolling around the venue looking for shade and a beer (small cans of Stella are $9), I came upon a rowdy, shouting crowd of 40 under some shade – playing craps. They have three craps table set up with croupiers! Apparently, gambling is legal in Bermuda. There were chips and some metal markers, but also a lot of Bermudian and American dollars flying around....
Photo: Stacie Brandt, SAILING ILLUSTRATED
Wyclef Jean performed Saturday night with enthusiasm. Wyclef is a three-time Grammy winner with a new album. I asked my 23-year-old California Uber driver about him Friday, and he likes Wyclef and described him as a reggae guy trying to rap. He’s also an entertainer who works hard to get his audience excited. After we sang along to a Bob Marley hit, the long flight from California caught up to me and I left before the opening ceremonies. I wonder if the crews removed their helmets to be introduced? Premier Dunkley posted a photo of the fireworks on Instagram, and I’m sorry I missed them.
The Fairmont Hamilton Princess pours a good daiquiri. Blue blazers with bright Bermuda shorts are on display among the patrons of Bermuda’s traditional fine hotel, which now boasts a restaurant by star chef Marcus Samuelsson. No blue blazers were visible at the Dockyards, although in fairness their wearers would have died from the heat. There were plenty of red shorts (nicely fading to pink) and sundresses, as well as AC gear from the shops.
Photo: Stacie Brandt, SAILING ILLUSTRATED