Working with the America’s Cup has been quite an interesting adventure this month and I imagine it is only going to get more intimate as August and September see more boats, teams, and racing.
Today, I arrived a bit early to my shift at the America’s Cup Pavilion where I have spent all my volunteer hours thus far. Typically, upon arrival, I’m directed to support a camera crew for the day, carrying their equipment, or I complete basic operational tasks like ‘picking up more milk’ or ‘running a thing-a-ma-jig to some place across the way.’ However, this morning was a bit, unique… likely because of some genetic skill set.
After arriving and being assigned to a camera crew, I was frantically reassigned to a new group and the very important task of caravan-ing a brand new Lexus hybrid to the airport. Once in Oakland, I kibitz with the ‘blokes’ I had been following and, after the fuel truck departed, I asked what task they’d like me to help with. In reply they said “enjoy the ride.” and I got aboard a Eurocopter AS355 along with the pilot (which is good) and camera operator.
Being my first time aboard a roto-wing, I was pleased to see the preflight inspection was inclusive of the rotors, associated tie-rods, and engine compartment. Though I couldn’t be sure of the inspection quality, I felt safe.
The helicopter was outfitted with a slick camera on a gimbal that extended off the nose and was controlled by the operator in the back seat, as well as location technologies that provide the foundation for some pretty fancy live graphics to be displayed on the screen (similar to the yellow line in football). The feed also appeared in the cockpit for both the operator and the pilot so he could adapt his maneuvers for appropriate camera views. While not all that fancy in many respects, I was impressed.
Departing from Oakland International Airport, we flew along Eastern edge of Alameda Island to the north side of the Eastern span of the Bay Bridge, giving an excellent perspective of progress on the new span that will perhaps be ready by September. We then flew over Treasure Island and sky parked in front of Pier 29 in San Francisco, the headquarters for the Americas Cup operations. After some deliberation, we floated to the race course and began collecting b-roll.
When we arrived there were two Oracle AC45s that were on the water practicing for the RedBull Cup along with about a dozen support boats, swirling around the teams. We took turns with another helicopter, who had a photographer onboard, sitting high above the course and then dropping to no more than 250′ off the water to follow the boats. After these few flybys and a buzz past the Golden Gate, we saw the Italian Luna Rossa AC72 had arrived on the course. While the AC72 is only 28 feet longer, the magnitude of the larger yacht is enormous. It’s massive fixed wing and foiling pontoons are striking from the air and a thrill to watch. With an official racer on the course now, it seemed that racing was going to begin shortly. I enjoyed a few more fly-bys of the boat and then the pilot headed us back to Oakland so they could unload the extra weight, this guy, before the racing started and they needed more mobility.
The drive back to SF was, needless to say, full of grins.