The ambiance at the Oasis at the head of Clarkes Court Bay is decidedly…let’s call it funky casual. Several dogs, Lulu the cat, bare feet and as little clothing as possible are de rigeur.
Bob rules the roost here in Woburn from the last stool on the left side of his bar carefully self administering fluids for re-hydration. The only way to watch the America’s Cup races in Clarkes Court Bay is through Bob’s computer wired into the flat screen on the wall behind the bar. It doesn’t hurt that happy hour coincides with the 4:00 o’clock start of the races.
As I say it’s normally rather laid back here at the Oasis but the America’s Cup races have been a bit of a windfall for Bob. I mean 50 to 60 thirsty sailors caught up in the drama every afternoon blindsided him and I heard he nearly ran out of Carib or Stag at first. Cruisers have come out of the woodwork and several look like they really need to get off their boats more often. Many I’ve never seen before and look more like hermits. After each race the dinghies stream out of Clarkes Court Bay Marina and you can tell who pulled for whom by their dinghy language. We are home again aboard Escape Velocity before most of the dinghies stream past us but the last to arrive is always an old gent rowing a dodgy inflatable raft and he yells out a hearty ahoy and proceeds to tell us all about the day’s race as if we weren’t there talking to him the whole time.
The Kiwi contingent, always intense and vocal sportsmen, started strong featuring much flag waving, war chants, and high fives while team USA Oracle was caught cheating in an earlier series and docked two race points right from the get-go. Larry Ellison after all is the sugar daddy of all things Oracle and some would add what could go wrong? Two points is a lot to overcome but what was worse was Oracle’s apparent lack of speed and poor tacking and jibing techniques even though Oracle was said to be the faster boat. Just as Team USA was about to be sent ignominiously packing in a rout with much consternation in the front of the bar, they found some speed, changed their tactician and started to win.
In what can only be called one if the greatest comebacks in the history of sport, one more loss, sudden death day after day and it’s all over, but there they are, still winning. But today it will all end. It’s winner take all.
The boats, if you can call them boats, are 72-foot-long monsters of carbon technology riding up out of the water on elevating foils, sails made like articulating airplane wings as big as a 747.
In short we sailors don’t have a lot in common with these daredevils and to hear the gasps in the bar when a gust catches one of these airborne sleds and sends it heading for what looks for all the world like ass over titters destruction, only underlines their otherworldliness.
Sailboat racing is no longer like watching paint dry, and a sailor is a sailor whether he’s flying through the air at 50 knots or plowing 6 through the water. So we gather all around the world in large and small groups to share the camaraderie and root home our favorites. For sailors this is the World Cup, Super Bowl, and World Series rolled into one.
Here at the Oasis it’s the Kiwis getting more and more quiet and tense gathered around the back of the bar, thankfully with less flag waving, and the Oracles in front nervously peeling the labels on their Presidentes.