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View Is Not Exactly Spectacular from the Spectator Fleet

May 10, 1992|DAVE DISTEL

Let's see now, about seeing all this stuff out at sea.

You can either TV or go to sea, unless you want to haul the Palomar telescope out to the cliffs by the Cabrillo National Monument.

I was presented with an opportunity, as this America's Cup finally arrived upon Race 1 of the real Cup series, to climb aboard a 27-foot Bayliner and join the spectator fleet. This, I had not previously tried, having either been aboard a media boat with preferred "seating" or camped in front of a television in the media center.

This would not be a normal collection of voyagers. The skippers were Rocky and Boom Boom and the passengers were Bowinkle, a friend of Rocky's obviously, myself and Slim Jim.

Advised that I would be recording impressions, Boom Boom said: "I can tell you right now it's going to be like watching paint dry."

Boom Boom is presumably somewhat of an expert on this, since he is the kind of guy who would paint himself into a corner and have to watch the paint dry.

"All clear?" asked Rocky, as he put Da-Mar into reverse.

"All clear," said Boom Boom.

Not exactly.

The boat went nowhere, mainly because a line was still tied to the dock. It would have taken a long time to drag that dock out to the race course.

As it turned out, Boom Boom must be a distant relative of Paul Cayard. Just as Boom Boom got us off to an inauspicious start, Cayard left Il Moro di Venezia at the starting line.

In fact, the entire race got off to a delayed start because the spectator fleet was on the race course. Da-Mar was not among the intrusive boats. Coming out of Mission Bay, rather than San Diego Bay, we came up behind the starting area.

It should be noted here that the spectators, the fleet numbering between 500 and 600 boats, were not really at fault for being in the way. The course normally runs to the west, away from the coast, but the wind from the south was to send America 3 and Il Moro along the coast instead.

However, this stroke of good fortune, for us, gave us a remarkably advantageous position to see the start. We could not, of course, see the starting line itself, but we could presume Il Moro had jumped the gun when it immediately reversed itself to recross the line.

Regardless, it was an exciting place to be at an exciting moment.

You have to understand, though, that it was like being on I-8 at 5 o'clock, the difference being that the traffic was all bobbing and wakes kept everyone twisting and turning as well. It was like trying to dance on a water bed.

Helicopters created an additional air of urgency.

"It's like the invasion of Vietnam," said Bowinkle, who must have seen it in a movie.

"It looks like you could go a long way stepping from one boat to another," said Rocky.

Once it started, the Cup boats headed away from us and became smaller as they moved toward the horizon. They would never disappear, to be sure. It would be like losing a redwood in Borrego Springs.

"Hand me the binoculars," someone said to Boom Boom.

"They're home," he said.

Everyone groaned. Poor Boomer. He was starting to feel as badly as Cayard.

Given that the boats were too far away to watch, you revert to what you do onshore. You people watch, or boat watch.

You watch Miss Buffy go past with two guys dressed as mermaids and you watch three brave (and blistered) souls in a rowboat and you watch Jolly Roger from Honolulu go past with three pirate flags and you watch Tomcat and Kitty Cat from Monterey and Don't Worry About It! and an old woody wagon (yes, a car) with a surfboard on top.

By now, America 3 was passing the mark in front of us with a 41-second lead, or 11 seconds more than it had at the start. Il Moro was in trouble, which distressed Bowinkle, he being of Italian descent.

"At least they're second," he said.

And off they went again, heading for the horizon. Boom Boom, seeking to save face, neatly positioned us to watch the rounding at the first reaching mark. No one told him what a good job he had done. It wasn't that kind of group.

Now, off in the distance, it looked like Il Moro might be gaining a bit.

"I'm not drinking until the Italians take the lead," Bowinkle said.

He might save a lot of money between now and 1995.

Geography was beginning to interest me, since watching the boats off in the distance was a lot like watching Boom Boom watch paint dry.

You know how you used to "collect" license plates on long and tedious trips when you were a kid? I "collected" home ports. In addition to Honolulu and Monterey, I collected Lake Oswego, Ore., Dana Point, Manhattan Beach, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Tucson, Newport Beach, Los Angeles, New Orleans, St. Louis, Boston, Seattle, Portland, Boca Raton, San Francisco and the Grand Cayman Islands. I wondered how tough it was to sail to San Diego from Phoenix and Tucson.

And I spotted Spectacular Bid, Riva Ridge, Summer Squall and Arazi, which was probably slower than it looked.

We were in splendid position to see America 3 finish, closer perhaps than Il Moro.

"Italy was down 4-1 to New Zealand and came back," brightened Bowinkle.

"This is best-of-seven," he was reminded. "Get down 4-1 and they're out of dodge."

Which was exactly what we were.

Boom Boom found the marina.

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