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Gone with the Wind—Not! | By David Schwoegler

Thought October was all about costumes, jack-o’-lanterns, football games, World Series play, or throwing out the first Christmas carol? Well think again, because here’s a first-in-a-lifetime production the world will be watching—and it’s happening for free, in local waters—when the America’s Cup October Regatta, Oct. 2-7, overlaps with Fleet Week, Oct. 4-8.

Most Thursdays, my day begins at the Olympic Circle Sailing Club at the Berkeley Marina. For less than $40 each, a bunch of us seasoned salts gather, rain or shine, to spend a day on the Bay fielding whatever nature has in store. Usually, we charter a J/105, a stable but spartan 10.5-meter fiberglass sloop.

Although this scenario replays weekly, the outcome is never the same. The unpredictability of Bay winds and the power of the tides create unique challenges for day-sailors, as well as for professionals crewing 45-foot catamarans like those in the America’s Cup.

Speaking of which, the America’s Cup World Series that captivated the Bay Area in August returns again this month, with one practice day and one qualifying day, followed by four days of racing—all a prelude to the arrival of the giant AC72 catamarans competing for the Louis Vuitton Cup and the America’s Cup finals in 2013 (July 4-Sept. 1, and Sept. 7-22).

For an East Bay perspective, those masts will be as tall as the new 13-story high-rise at 1333 Broadway in Oakland. The crew platform and trampoline would blanket the doubles court at Davie Tennis Stadium. And speeds reached during maximum winds might earn you a speeding citation on downtown Oakland portions of the Nimitz.

For the first time in the history of the Cup, the entire course will be visible to spectators on land. There’s no denying that the race venue favors the San Francisco side of the Bay, with ticketed bleacher seating along the Marina Green. But clearly the best seat in the house is the mandatory one reserved for a non-crew observer aboard each catamaran. The likelihood of scoring one of these seats is about the same as being struck by lightning while buying a winning lottery ticket—from the pope.

Viewing the competition from the proximity of a boat deck at the edge of the course added to the spectacle and the excitement in August. To get up close and personal this month, board OCSC’s spectator charter, the 82-foot schooner Seaward, on Saturday, Oct. 6—for info: (510) 843-4200.

The technical embellishments of video coverage provide the best sense of where all the boats are and who’s ahead. For a broad perspective, head to the Marina Green bleacher seats that also offer jumbo-screen video.

For those who won’t cross the Bay but want to get out of the house, select one of several waterfront lounges for maritime authenticity: Skates By the Bay in Berkeley, the Boiler Room in Richmond, Quinn’s Lighthouse in Oakland, or Pier 29 Ballena Bay in Alameda. Although landlocked, Ricky’s Sports Bar in San Leandro has the most big screens to watch.


Smooth sailing: Sleek trimarans race past Alcatraz in the September trials for the America’s Cup. The boats return Oct. 2-7 for the October Regatta—all a preview for next year’s America’s Cup finals. Photo by illes Martin-Raget.


Turning tides: With high-rise masts and speeds exceeding 40 mph, vessels competing in the America's Cup trials in September mesmerized viewers on both sides of the Bay.