Sailing Race Spectacular Event For Spectators In An Eventful City
When I got wind of the America’s Cup taking place in San Francisco, I knew I had to be there for it.
It’s an international sporting event, one that gets worldwide media coverage and involves an interesting and fun (and also somewhat puzzling) sport, sailing. Plus, taking place in a city as dynamic as San Francisco well, that elevated it from “hey, that’s pretty cool” to “no brainer” status.
And so it proved to be the case. It was an adventure as big as the sails on the boats, an experience as thrilling as seeing those giant AC72s with their massive size rise out of the water, like fans did from their seats at key racing moments.
The fact we could see the boats from the shore has brought America’s Cup up close to the public. It was thrilling. The boats are huge and the speeds impressive, especially for anyone who’s been on a sailboat. Normally you are used to going 5-7 mph, but Emirates and Oracle hit a whopping 50+ mph. That’s faster than any car was going on any street in San Francisco.
I watched the Kiwis’ Emirates-sponsored boat and the Oracle-sponsored American boat with a friend who had bought season tickets in the grandstands by the St. Francis Yacht Club one day, then went down among the masses at the America’s Cup Pavilion on another day.
The former location provided the better spectating – even those who just walked up for free along the jetty had great views – while the latter was spectacular from an event standpoint (America’s Cup racing runs at least thru Tuesday, Sept. 18 and, if the Americans go on a big run, then thru the weekend).
The Pavilion also provided me with a more international type of atmosphere, almost like the Olympics. The Pavilion was about 75% Kiwis, and there was even a special bar for them at the entrance. Naturally, I had a few pints in the place.
Oh, the party wasn’t perfect. In fact, it was kind of mellow by world-class party standards. Perhaps that’s what happens when they set up really cool bars in the pavilion, then charge $9 and $11 for a beer. Or also because by this point there was only the USA and New Zealand remaining in the competition.
Still, the rest of San Francisco awaited, meaning America’s Cup was part of a launching pad to the rest of what locals call “The City.”
And one of the best spots happened to be right next door to the Pavilion, Pier 23 restaurant. It’s not so much the seafood and fish tacos I enjoy so much about the place, or even the patio on the water, but the bar. This is a great meet-and-mingle place anytime on sunny afternoons, for thirsty San Francisco locals use it as their starter or “let’s go have a couple of drinks” bar. If you’re trying to decide where to go for a daytime drink in The City that’s potentially lively where you might have some mingling opportunities, then go to Pier 23.
I also went to other familiar places such as the Marina District, where I checked out the Thirsty Pig, one of the area’s most happening restaurant/bars. Then I had dinner at one of my favorite San Francisco restaurants, the Brazen Head.
I also went to new places, of which San Francisco has a rich bounty. As soon as I think I really know The City, then someone tells me about, or takes me to, some neat little spot I previously did not know existed.
One of these was a way-cool dinner spot on a barge at the end of Fisherman’s Wharf called Forbes Island. A friend and I had a couple of well-made Dark and Stormy drinks and appetizers but really it’s a place for full dinner. But by sitting at the bar, we were entertained by Pierre behind the bar as much as the cocktails.
Another was the best tiki bar I’ve ever been to, Smuggler’s Cove, which makes exotic tropical drinks in an Polynesian atmosphere that makes you completely forget you are by City Hall. Perhaps that’s the point.
I also took the commuter ferry across the bay to a friend’s house in Marin County, That was quite a thrill, bringing a bit of the excitement to mind I feel when I’m taking a ferry from one of the Greek Islands to another. The Ferry Building, I discovered, is a bustling places for commuters after work and it even has a wine bar!
And while across the bay, I went to a dive bar in Larkspur called the Silver Peso. It’s a classic!
On the upscale end, I stayed in a cool hotel, Executive Hotel Vintage Court, just up from Union Square. It’s one of those cool, boutique places along a busy street (in this case Bush Street) that just says San Francisco. The only shortcoming in my stay was my own, as I was at Pier 23 and missed the daily wine tasting for guests (5-6 p.m.).
So San Francisco provided some things new and cool, and some things old and familiar. What it provided most of all, however, was being a sensational host for a worldwide sporting event.
All the talk about the America’s Cup falling short of revenue projections (which are always overstated anyway) faded away as fast as Oracle did on the downwind leg of the race course. Sure, the cost of the boats limited the field for the summer’s qualifying races but by the time the the Finals arrived, The City was buzzing and hotel rooms were at a premium price ($250-350 a night).
America’s Cup in San Francisco was most certainly smooth sailing for me.