Tuesday, October 1, 2013

City by the Bay

While Colene flew to Austin to defend her dissertation in August, I got to stay in San Francisco with my niece Faith Bolliger and her fiancĂ©, Dan Ross. They were gracious hosts, letting me have my space so I could bum around all week. I promised Colene that I would work on our 2012 taxes while we were apart, but I later realized our extension wasn’t up until October--so what was the rush?

So one day I biked downtown and up the hill to Coit Tower. Yes, I had to push my bike up the last hill. It was so steep I wouldn’t have trusted my bike brakes to ride down it!

I didn’t go to the top of Coit Tower, but I did enjoy the murals around the base as well as the view from Telegraph Hill. As an added bonus, I watched a dozen pygmy nuthatches playing in the trees on the hill. I had never before seen pygmy nuthatches, and so far, I have only seen them in San Francisco.

One of the big events in San Francisco this year was the America’s Cup. Because the United States won the last race in 2010, the U.S. got to pick the location of this year’s race, and they chose San Francisco. I admittedly do not know much about it, but the location seems ideal to me. On many race days the wind was at or over the racing limit, meaning the boats would be very fast. And isn’t that what spectators want--speed and lots of potential danger? Overall, this is a wild, precarious sport. As I heard someone say, if the boats don't fall apart after the last race, they were built too strong and heavy. 

While I was in town the teams were still competing for the Louis Vuitton Cup, which is the series of races that determines who will challenge the defending champion. This year, the New Zealand team won the Vuitton Cup rather handily. 

Here are some things I learn about the America's Cup after a few days of watching and talking to volunteers:

  • The boats are a lot bigger than I imagined. At 72’ long and 46’ wide, they are about the size of a junior-high basketball court. In addition, the mast are 131’ tall.
  • It takes a tall crane to assemble the boats. First they raise the sail and set it on the hull. Then they lift the sail and hull so that the rudders can be installed, then finally lift the complete boat into the water.
  • One Saturday morning I visited with a father and son from New Zealand while fewer than 100 other people watched the race. The Kiwis said that if the race had been taking place in New Zealand, 10,000 spectators would have been at the dock.
  • The race doesn’t take place every year; race participants negotiate when the next race will happen. There was once a 20-year span between races.
  • The wind can’t be over a certain speed or the race will be postponed or cancelled.
  • The competition was started in 1851, making it the oldest active trophy in international sport. 

Once the competition for the America's Cup began between New Zealand and the United States, I was mostly out of touch--no cell phone or internet. I was shocked to learn, after the fact, that the U.S. team came from behind to win it again. The Kiwis must have been bitterly disappointed.