Where were the American sailors? - Soundings Online

Where were the American sailors?

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I was in San Francisco for the first week of the America’s Cup doing a fair amount of corporate entertainment. Running back and forth from Pier 27 to the Marina Green, to Crissy Field, the top of the Transamerica building, St. Francis Yacht Club and out on the water, I saw the racing from many vantage points.

Dawn Riley

Incredibly, they were all great, proving that San Francisco is truly an amphitheater for sailing.

As a sailor, I’d say my favorite perch for catching the action was on the beach at Crissy Field with the iPad app running. I just needed a bottle of that California sparkling wine to make it perfect.

I know how hard the organizers had to work to get all of the permits and permissions from the city of San Francisco. That was a miracle. I hope the second time around the city makes it easier for organizers, but if it doesn’t, rumor has it that Newport, R.I., is waiting in the wings.

Stan Honey and his team did a remarkable job of providing the technology to follow the racing no matter where you were. I watched one race aboard a Delta flight and more than one in the middle of the night while at a conference in Beijing. Incredible.

The racing also was unbelievable. I am still not sure what Oracle did to get their act together, but what I saw was that Emirates Team New Zealand was sailing at 100 percent of capacity at least 90 percent of the time. Not only was their boat fast, but the team also was solid, focused and smart. Yet once Oracle was able to get its performance up to snuff and make a few tweaks, theirs turned out to be the faster boat.

Oracle Team USA held on to the Cup with a multinational crew.

I was asked multiple times why there were no women on board, and I responded, “The bigger question is: Why were there virtually no Americans on board?” Four years ago, Oakcliff Sailing in Oyster Bay, N.Y., saw that Americans were not in leadership or senior roles in the highest levels of sailing. We created a program to fix this and are right now seeing results. Women have significant roles across all of our boats. Oakcliff alumnus Solomon Krevans was recruited to the Red Bull Youth America’s Cup, and the young Kiwis are actually coming here to Oakcliff to train. Our Jeff MacFarlane is about to embark on the Mini Transat, and our teams are on the podium more often than not at race events.

One more thing: Women themselves need to keep knocking on the doors — or, to borrow the words of Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg, they need to lean in! Hopefully, the adjectives incredible, amazing and unbelievable will continue to describe the America’s Cup and ripple outward to sailing in general.

Dawn Riley, executive director of Oakcliff Sailing Center, was “the girl” — the pit person — on Bill Koch’s 1992 Cup winner America3, team captain on the America3 women’s team in 1995, CEO and team captain on America True in 2000 and general manager of Areva Challenge in 2007.

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December 2013 issue