Friday, June 29, 2012

Napa Valley Vintners & America's Cup: The excitement begins!

Friday Morning, June 29

Yesterday the racing began. I had read about the NASCAR-like excitement of the America's Cup World Series, but now I've experienced it.  Wow!

The Emirates New Zealand team capsized in their match race against Luna Rossa Piranha, only to have their gleaming high-tech catamaran turn onto its rudders in a failed attempt to right it. By the time the boat was back on its hulls an hour later, the carbon fiber wingsail was severely damaged, and official reports were that the crew would be working all night to make the repairs necessary to get Emirates New Zealand back in the water in time for today's races.

Destination Napa Valley Council President Clay Gregory experienced the excitement first hand during the fleet race, as guest racer on Team Korea's catamaran. Clay told me afterwards that he got an aerobic workout while sitting still. I could be wrong, but I'm pretty sure he was referring to the fact that his heart was racing the entire time. One thing for sure, he looked like a guy who had never had such fun in his life.

And this, for me, was the greatest part of the day: the excitement of the day's races was shared by everyone from the Napa Valley Vintners and Destination Napa Valley who came out to Newport, regardless of whether they were sailors or non-sailors. The organizers of the 34th America's Cup competition have long said that their goal was to create an event that was accessible to everyone - to create a spectator-friendly arena on the water - and if the event here at Newport is anything to judge by, they have succeeded in a big way.

Just ask Linda Reiff, Eric Sklar, Clay Gregory, Will Smith, Allison Simpson, George Peterson or Darcy Tunt.

Or me, for that matter.


Lester Hardy 

Lester Hardy, lawyer by day, author by night, is the husband of Janet Pagano, Managing Partner at Ovid Vineyards.  An avid sailor, Lester crews for vintner Eric Sklar on Spindrifter at the Sausalito Yacht Club's Tuesday night races, and is currently working on a biography of Tom Blackaller, a San Francisco sailing legend who competed in three America's Cup events. You can reach Lester at

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