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Hey (America's Cup) Sailor – How About a Ride?

Killer accents, Kismet, and the art of a lucky flirt (or, how I met an Artemis team member by accident and hope to meet more...)

This is not a story about the America’s Cup. If you want technology, stats and schedules, stop now and go to their website, http://www.americascup.com. (They cover it well.) This story ... my story … is about the way the universe works, killer accents and the pursuit of an elusive hat.

A couple of weeks ago, I received an email from my Alameda Patch editor:

“Hi, Alice, I saw somewhere that the skipper of the Artemis has arrived in town. Would you consider/interviewing him if I can track down contact information? I don’t think I’ve got another writer around that knows one end of a sailboat from another...”

I jumped on it, and Dixie said she was eager to see a photo of me standing next to some lanky Swedish sailor. Then last Tuesday at 2:33 a.m., another email:

On the remote off-chance that you’d like to go – Dixie”

Media Alert:  “America’s Cup 101” briefing The Bay Theater/PIER 39 The first races of the highly anticipated America’s Cup World Series kick off on August 21st at Marina Green. Join San Francisco Travel and Tom Ehman, Vice Commodore at Golden Gate Yacht Club to get up to speed on understanding and making the most of the races.

I rushed home to change out of my sweats and into nautical attire for my first official press conference — pleated khakis, a preppy button-down shirt, and a pair of knock-off “Topsider” deck shoes. (Although I have no press credentials, I did wear my official “Patch” button and carried a spiral-bound Patch note pad — treasured gifts from my first editor, Eve.

Driving west across the top deck of the Bay Bridge, I began mentally composing interview questions. My inner comic wondered if it would upset my husband if I asked, “Hey, sailor — who the heck does a girl have to sleep with to wrap her legs around a long hard carbon-fiber hull?”

Si is hypersensitive to my behavior around extreme athletes. Years ago when we were dating (OK, technically engaged…), a group of my friends went into the City to celebrate a 21st birthday at Perry’s on Union Street. We befriended a rugby team from the Isle of Jersey and ended up sharing a ride back to Berkeley. It was close quarters in the back seat.

Scout's honor, in spite of those sexy accents I wound up alone in my own twin bed. But one of the players did leave me a souvenir rugby shirt on the sorority’s front steps. To this day, whenever I swoon over an accent, Si rolls his eyes and says, “Eh, wot? Wanna T-shuht?”

From the moment I entered the Bay Theater, I knew flirting was pointless. I was completely outgunned, surrounded by photogenic young women my daughter’s age. (Picture it - a sea of long legs and short skirts…) One of the oldest there, I was a kindergartener let out to play with the big kids at recess. Everyone seemed to know each other, saying things like, “It’s good to be seen!” I was relieved when the briefing began.

Golden Gate Yacht Club Vice Commodore Tom Ehman asked, “How many of you out there are sailors? Raise your hands.” I shot my hand up so fast I nearly dislocated my shoulder, and then looked around smugly to see that mine was one of just a few in the air. When he showed a video of high-tech yachts in winds that could “blow dogs off chains,” Ehman was disappointed by the scarcity of applause. (He said that clip always gets applause.) When he explained that the first leg of the race would be a “reach,” I knew it was a reach to expect those landlubbers to know the term.  

[Because I love you, I’ll share the nautical definition of “reach” — sailing across the wind, from about 60° to about 160° off the wind. Feel free to use that fun fact if you’re ever a contestant on Jeopardy’s Tournament of Champions. You can thank me later...]

Ehman passed out lapel pins and logo hats. Sadly, I didn’t get a hat. As the briefing ended, the facilitator reminded us to leave business cards for a chance to win a ride on an AC45.

For the sailboat ride of a lifetime, all I needed was a business card!

But I don’t have a Patch business card. I don’t even have one that reads, “Have pen, will travel.” As I dug more frantically in my black hole of a purse, I realized I only had my youngest daughter’s “Esty” card. So I scratched out her contact information and scribbled in mine, hoping for a call that never came.

After my workout early Monday morning, I received two more emails. One came from my editor’s editor, with a pdf on Patch letterhead:

“To Whom It May Concern: Please provide Alice Lewis with credentials to cover the America’s Cup media availability scheduled for Tuesday, August 21. She will be covering and photographing the event for Patch.com. Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any questions.”

The second was from Dixie, saying this would probably be my only shot at an interview with the Artemis skipper. The online application was grueling, and I realized I was probably too late to qualify.

I went home to shower, then took my daughter, Sarah, to Wescafé for breakfast. When I tried to steal an inside table from a fellow who appeared to be leaving, I heard his killer accent and quickly asked if he was a sailor. (Not many killer accents in Alameda…)

Kismet! Turns out he is a sailor — Great Britain’s Ian Percy, just back from the Olympics where he silver medaled. He is the Swedish team’s tactician. Sarah and I sat with him for over half an hour, chatting amicably. Although he didn’t give me a hat or a T-shirt, he did give me an interview and we’re hoping he’ll take us up on my offer to come for dinner.

And just now I received an email approving me to “Meet the Skippers” Tuesday on the Marina Green. Cross your fingers I get a hat…

(..to be continued…)

For more information on the America’s Cup or this week’s AC World Series, go to http://www.americascup.com. The best viewing is either from the Marina Green or from the warmer comfort of your own living room with coverage on NBC.

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dave August 21, 2012 at 02:42 PM
Nice piece, Alice. It dredges up old resentments -- those damn exchange students & their accents were tough competition.....
Jon Spangler August 21, 2012 at 04:03 PM
Way to grab the sailor (er, story) where you find him (it)... :-) Keep at it--Talking to a knowledgeable reporter is worth more than good looks.
Dana Carey, Ruby Bridges Parent August 21, 2012 at 05:23 PM
Very excited to meet our new neighbors who are on the next block over in our Patch!
Diane Beardsley August 22, 2012 at 12:18 AM
Great story, will look for the continuation..... If you would like to view the races, consider the USS Potomac at Jack London Square.
Josiah Lewis August 22, 2012 at 12:55 AM
I think your article is on the right "tack".
laurie wagner August 22, 2012 at 04:47 PM
Alice, this piece, your writing, is absolutely incredible! I don't give a hoot about sailing or the America's Cup, but now you've pulled me in and gotten me all hot and bothered about it! Looks like you're having fun too! Love these pieces!
lzambrano August 22, 2012 at 10:33 PM
Great story Alice....My hubby and father going out on the Artemis spectator boat on the bay tomorrow.....now you have me jealous and wishing I was going! Mr. Espresso (Alameda founded and owned) is the official coffee supplier of the Artemis team while they are here. This will be one of our perks…. It's quite an operation!
Alice Lewis August 22, 2012 at 11:54 PM
Sounds like a great idea, Diane! I love the Potomac!
Alice Lewis August 22, 2012 at 11:55 PM
Glad to be your first mate, Captain. ...AND your trophy wife. xox
Alice Lewis August 22, 2012 at 11:59 PM
Thanks Laurie! Yes - Having a blast. Can't wait to get back to the 27 Powers Court "wild writes" though. My best ideas come from your table...
Alice Lewis August 23, 2012 at 12:03 AM
Thinking of stowing away... Maybe if I disguise as a coffee bean? Mr. Espresso makes GREAT coffee. (Lucky Artemis team.) Maybe Mr. Espresso wants to be the official coffee supplier of a local Patch columnist...
Alice Lewis August 23, 2012 at 12:05 AM
Thanks Dave! Yup. I don't know if an American accent does the same thing abroad... Sounds like a good idea for a bit of investigative journalism...
Alice Lewis August 23, 2012 at 12:07 AM
Thanks Jon! I like comments at the bottom of my columns even more than accents. I am so easy...
lzambrano August 23, 2012 at 10:41 PM
Thanks Alice! Maybe that could be arranged! Enjoy your column and the Patch!
Alice Lewis May 09, 2013 at 10:33 PM
I just heard about the tragic accident and the loss of an Artemis sailor. I am heartsick. I remember talking to some of the team members at a local pub awhile back, telling them how much I wanted to go out on one of the AC45s. I was a bit offended when they made me feel I didn't have the right stuff. Not so much anymore...

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