One Weekend, Two Races, All Competition.

I bet you I can skip this rock more times than you can.”

“Wanna join my fantasy football league?”

What can I say? I love competition. Two celestial entities coming together to compete against one another to determine which one is better. Teams. Individuals. Constructors. Crews. They are all competitors, but only a few can be winners.

I love winning, and I will be the first to admit that I also love the fruits of victory… especially the trash talking after.

I can see the Giants at AT&T Park any time. Candlestick is only a bus ride away. Hell, if I wanted to, I could be at a Golden State Warriors game in 40 minutes. This weekend, however, we were sporting on an international scale: The America’s Cup Championships and the Sonoma Grand Prix. This was competition on a million dollar budget, I couldn’t wait to drink it all up and take it all in.

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SATURDAY, 1:10 PM – Yacht (“Club”) party.

Slightly cloudy skies but dark and stormy in my glass, we looked down on the America’s Cup from the rooftop deck, tossing about the few pieces of information we knew about this race… I mean, The 2013 Louis Vuitton Cup.

“Can you believe those things are 130 feet tall?”

“Did you know the America’s Cup is the oldest active trophy in international sport?”

It is not as simple as two boats racing. Oh, no, no, no. It is much, much more than that. This a battle of yacht clubs. Each boat represents a club. The boats, and accordingly the crews, change every time the “Defending Club” is challenged for the America’s Cup. This year, the Defending Club is the Golden Gate Yacht Club (winner of the 2010 America’s Cup) and the “Defenders” are the Oracle Team USA. They are patiently bobbing about the bay while “Challenging Club” Emirates Team New Zealand races against (and ultimately triumphed over) Luna Rossa Challenge.

We watched as the massive, 130 foot tall, catamarans raced around the San Francisco Bay, sometimes reaching speeds of 50+ knots. It was amazing to witness the spectacle of competitive yachting, while socializing safely behind the glass of a rooftop deck. It was much warmer up there. And much less windy.

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IMG_9004SONOMA GRAND PRIX

SUNDAY, 1:40 PM – General Admission Bleachers, Turn 9.

I’d never been to an auto race before, but I knew there was a difference between IndyCar racing and NASCAR. NASCAR is the most popular sport in America (sad but true) while IndyCar is the governing body of the most popular race in the United States, The Indianapolis 500. Nascar is closed wheel, Indy is open wheel.

“I’ll take a 24-ounce beer, please. Thank you very much.”

As soon as the race started, the engines echoed loudly in the Sonoma Raceway. It totally sounds like thunder (Thanks, Tom Cruise!). The bleachers flank a straightaway that leads into a sharp “S” turn, the perfect opportunity to demonstrate the driver’s awesome skill of control and speed. The cars typically opened up to around 110 mph, then slowed down to quickly navigate the turn, before accelerating off again. It was absolutely amazing. Occasionally cars would be cornered out so they’d burn through the dirt patches or forced to maneuver through the safety tires. One car crashed into the wall nearest to us, sending shards of Styrofoam boxes and debris across the track. Luckily, the driver was fine.

IndyCar racing refers to “championship open-wheel auto racing” in the United States. The sheer power of these machines is remarkable, so it is no wonder that it costs each car around $1 Million to participate in each race.  There are potentially dozens of races each season. Round and round these machines screamed, and after 85 laps, Will Power ultimately prevailed… no, I’m serious, that’s his name… Will Power.

We stuck around for the Maserati races, which was also totally cool, but much slower and more spread out then the IndyCar Race. I was totally hooked. I wanted to be down in the pits. I wanted to drive. I want my own IndyCar.

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As we drove home on Sunday night, I thought back over my weekend of races. At one point in time, sailing and driving were solitary activities, not intended for sport. They were luxuries afforded to an elite few to aid in transportation. But the primal need to push the envelope, to see “how fast” humans can go, forced these sports to evolve into the spectacles they are today. Every year the designs get better. Every year the times get quicker. Every year the boundaries are pushed.

There was a tipping point where the future of the sport was taken out of the hands of those who love it the most and placed into the hands of those with the most money. It became too expensive for one man, or one family, to be pioneers in sailing or automobile racing. Innovation is the only way to stay competitive, but innovation is expensive. That’s why it’s not surprising that almost every square inch of usable space on the America’s Cup Catamarans or the Grand Prix IndyCars are covered with corporate sponsors and logos.

Why? We love winners. We listen to what winners tell us to do. We try to imitate winners. We buy from winners. We trust winners.

In order to have a winner… there must be a competition.

CHE

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