They bear little resemblance to the magnificent 12-meter America’s Cup yachts I watched for so many years. The water-skimming, wind-driven flying machines of today have 131-foot-high wings instead of sails, twin instead of single hulls, daggerboards instead of keels. The terminology and most of the technology and technique are foreign to someone who, decades ago, loved sailing leisurely around the nearest lake in a 19-foot centerboard Lightning.
Giant (72-foot) catamarans crisscrossing San Francisco Bay at outlandish speeds (up to 54 mph). They are magnificent. Fascinating. Dangerous. They bear little resemblance even to their tiny, skittering Hobie cat cousins at the local dock.
To me they are no longer sailboats. They aren’t America’s Cup yachts. They don’t sail through the water; they fly above it. They are a new and very different kind of high-speed racing machine, affordable only by corporations, not sportsmen from the yacht club. They should be competing for some sort of new, high tech trophy. A crystal wing on a base of titanium and fiberglass, perhaps. Something more appropriate than the elegant old cup so reminiscent of yachting’s history, tradition, and gentility.