- Published on October 8, 2013
- Written by John Kehoe
It was a dream come true — the America’s Cup held on San Francisco Bay! Having raced sailboats competitively in high school, college, and later, internationally, it has been incredible to see up-close and personal, the transformation the America’s Cup has taken. And it doesn’t hurt being able to catch some of the racing just down the Embarcadero from TCHO!
My love of sailing and the America’s Cup goes back almost 40 years. I grew up racing sailboats in Marblehead, Massachusetts. And, I toured the yacht, Courageous, in the summer of 1974 when it triumphantly returned to Marblehead after local sail maker and hero, Ted Hood, won the America’s Cup in Newport, Rhode Island.
A few years later, I watched from a friend’s roof as Courageous and Intrepid, another potential defender, would practice off of the coast of Marblehead. Courageous went on to win the America’s Cup for an unprecedented (and unrepeated) second time in 1977, skippered by CNN’s Ted Turner. Years ago, my father gave me a print of Courageous winning in 1974, signed by Ted Hood and yacht designer, Olin Stephens.
Last fall, TCHO was invited to tour the Pier 80 compound of this year’s America’s Cup defender, Oracle Team USA. Russell Coutts, a three-time America’s Cup winner, and team CEO, and Jimmy Spithill, also an America’s Cup winner and this boat’s skipper, signed a copy of my print.
Once a gentleman’s offshore yacht race, Larry Ellison, Russell Coutts and Oracle Team USA have launched the America’s Cup into the 21st century with ultra-modern, high-speed, carbon fiber, winged-sail catamarans which hydro foil across the water at speeds reaching 50 mph.
Watching these high-tech behemoths battling it out at high speeds on San Francisco bay was an incredible spectacle that amazed everyone, including my wife and one-year-old daughter when we would watch from a bluff over the Golden Gate Bridge in Sausalito. Sailors where naturally drawn to the event, but these incredible machines, flying across the water drew the attention of many more to this new era of sailing and sport.
While much of the action was visible from all over the San Francisco waterfront, NBC Sports and Live-line brought TV viewers out on to the Bay with helicopter and onboard cameras. Live-line is lead by Sam Honey, a long-time sailor. The company invented the on-screen first down line for football and the blue puck in hockey. Their work won an Emmy Award last fall for the creative new ways to show TV viewers what was happening on the water in sailing. On-screen grids, boundaries and visual effects all added to the interest and excitement of the event.
If all that was not enough, Sam Honey and friends invented an app, Virtual Eye. This app tracks the boats on the course in real time through GPS, with more on-screen telemetry data – speed, direction, and angles.
Then, of course, there was the racing and the drama. Emirates Team New Zealand won the right to challenge for the cup through an uneventful, one-sided challenger series. At the start of the first race of the America’s Cup, Oracle Team USA and Emirates Team New Zealand proved to be closely matched and provided exciting racing in their flying machines. Emirates Team New Zealand was initially faster, maneuvered better, and sailed smarter, bringing the regatta to a precipice. They were at match point with a score of 8 races to 1. Oracle Team USA orchestrated one of the best sailing and sports comebacks of all time by making major changes to their boat and bringing aboard a new tactician. The team refocused and came roaring back from the precipice to even out the regatta 8 – 8. That was an exciting week of racing!
In a last, winner-take-all, race, Oracle Team USA was the faster boat and dominated the last race. The determination and never-give-up attitude of Oracle Team USA was, and remains, inspirational. The shore team was instrumental in this comeback using reams data that Oracle Team USA deployed to analyze the thousands of data points from the boat and film each night. This allowed them to find new speed every day.
Emirates Team New Zealand almost took the America’s Cup Down Under with their fast boat and solid teamwork by a group of talented sailors. But, it is formidable to compete in a technological battle with the U.S. team who has almost unlimited resources and an equally talented and dedicated group of sailors.
TCHO celebrates this extraordinary America’s Cup and Oracle Team USA’s win with our Sail SF artist series commemorating the innovation, speed and design of this amazing America’s Cup.
John Kehoe is TCHO’s VP of Sourcing and Development. He leads our TCHOSource farmer programs and our Bean Team that helps make great chocolate while helping make a better world.