When I was a child, I remember my parents sailing out of the Royal Newfoundland Yacht Club in St. John’s for weekend trips along the coast. My Uncle bought a yacht in the 80s so the crew of them had an adventurous hobby for a while. My Mother, before she met my Father, once sailed across the Atlantic Ocean (against my grandmother’s will no doubt) from Newfoundland to England. That takes guts. Guts I certainly don’t have.
Now that I’m done bragging about my parents, I do have to say, as much as I knew how happy my parents were sailing years ago, I had no interest in sailing myself. Perhaps it was the fear of sea sickness (luckily it never happened), sea legs not holding me up, or worse: the boat over turning in inclement weather. Can you tell I’m a bit of a worry wart? With my Father’s well-loved sweater clung to my chest, I was much more comfortable on the dock, waving them off on their weekend excursions around the island, because you know what happens when the parents go away? I get a nice feed of McDonald’s.
Fast forward twenty-odd years and I receive an e-mail from Captain Jon of AC Sailing SF, inviting my husband and I to join him and his crew for a cruise in San Francisco Bay on a former America’s Cup racing yacht named USA 76. Considering my husband has never been on a sail boat, and it’s been many years for me, without hesitation I said we’d be there.
For those that don’t know, America’s Cup is the oldest international sporting trophy event, where teams compete in match races two yachts at a time. It attracts top sailors from all around the world to join in and watch. Fun fact: the USA 76 yacht we were on was used by Team Oracle BMW during preparations for the 2003 America’s Cup. The team went on to make the Louis Vuitton challenge series final, winning 21 of 33 races, only losing to Team Alinghi from Switzerland. That team went on to win the Cup. Later that year, the team’s staged two rematches in San Francisco Bay. With more time to prepare and home water advantage, USA 76 won both. An impressive resume, no doubt. USA 76 is now retired from America’s Cup, but now holds the title of fastest charter yacht in the world.
I called my parents immediately after we reserved our spot, knowing they’d be familiar with this yacht — and wishing they were here to experience it with us. Instead, they’d have to ogle my photos at the computer from far away.
The Guy and I drove to San Francisco on Super Bowl Sunday (hey we’re Canadian, we’re hockey fans) to famous Pier 39 where USA 76 was docked. We hopped on with 6 crew and a couple of other guests and enjoyed the ride. The excursion was two and a half hours in length and it was explained to us that we’d help the crew out from time to time to hoist the sails and steer the boat. That brought back memories.
You got that right, the above photo is me as a little tom boy steering my Uncle’s yacht. Skipper Nancy. Look at the concentration on my face, so serious. Man, racing boats are nothing like my Uncle’s boat in the 80s. USA 76 is made completely of carbon fiber, so it’s extremely lightweight. Except for a few new comforts like the metal railing and a small engine for navigating away from the dock, this boat is exactly as it was raced and it shows. You are right in the middle of the action!
The two and a half hours simply flew by. The weather was ideal and we couldn’t have asked for a better day on the water, with winds ranging from 5-8 knots, a nice breeze but not overly gusty. We did a loop out the bay, underneath the Golden Gate Bridge — breathtaking! — and then U-turned shortly after to head back to the dock.
Joining the crew on the yacht was a day to remember. Seeing my husband look and feel relaxed, being out there felt like a once in a lifetime opportunity especially on such a famous yacht with veteran sailors. This was no champagne cruise on the Bay, this was a real sailing adventure! I want to thank Jon for reaching out and inviting us to join him and his crew on such a fun day.
For anyone visiting or living in the San Francisco area, I would highly recommend this tour to anyone. And for those looking for a thrill seeking ride, you can purchase tickets to ride on their TOMCAT Catamaran for 90 minutes of extreme sailing. That would be awesome.
Though, I do recommend you venture out during the California winters, as apparently a day on the bay during summer means you’ll be suited up for winter. I don’t get it really, either.