I have to admit, I was a little nervous. Judging from the comments of a television reporter — who will remain nameless — who was enjoying the same opportunity, I was not alone. But when you get invited to ride along during one of the America’s Cup World Series events, you don’t say no.
And so I found myself holding on for dear life on the back of the Artemis Racing White boat on Thursday during their match race against Luna Rossa Swordfish, listening to skipper Terry Hutchinson bark orders and frantically leaping from one side of the boat to the other at his direction.
Never mind the fact that I had about a foot worth of netting to lay down on and a single rope to grip, or that one wrong move would leave me all wet and watching Hutchinson’s team zipping away at 20 knots.
“Don’t lose me,” I said before the race.
“You know if you fall off,” Hutchinson said, “we’re not coming back for you.”
That was fine with me. I was more worried about disturbing the strategy of the team that worked like a well-oiled machine while zipping around San Francisco Bay in between the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz.
No easy task when you consider I had to leap over a hard metal bar to the other side every time the five-man crew did in order to keep the weight distributed just right. My shins will pay for my lack of experience in the morning.
The team seemed to have most of its strategy scripted from the start. I got a little nervous when we came within a few feet of other boats on more than one occasion, but the Artemis crew didn’t bat an eye as the Swordfish boat nipped at our heels for most of the race.
I didn’t hear the starting gun go off because I was too busy making sure I didn’t fall off or grab one of the pulleys that might have sliced my fingers off if I had grabbed it at the wrong time. After a few minutes, I thought, “yeah, I can do this.”
Then I had to jump over the bar again.
And again, until I lost count of how many times.
Fortunately my sloppy technique did not drag the team down with me. Artemis won its match race, and I made sure to listen for the shot that signaled the end. I even got a high-five from Hutchinson after the win.