I met a yachting author today.
I know he's a yachting author because his business card says, "Louis d'Alpuget, Yachting Author."
I'd never met a yachting author before.
So I asked him who he is working for here at the America's Cup races.
"I will write a book for a silly fellow who hopes to sell it for $1,000 a book," Louis said. "He is printing 1,000 of them."
That's $1 million worth of books.
A guy could get into being a yachting author.
Louis and I sat on the starboard side of the bridge of New England II, which cast off at 9:30 this morning to carry 115 journalists to the race course eight miles out in Rhode Island Sound. There must have been more than 1,000 boats there. The fleet was a beautiful sight with spinnakers filled and jibs cutting into the nor'easterly wind. (Practicing my nautical typing, Boss.)
Louis, who is from Sydney, Australia, wore a khaki Aussie hat with a strap under his chin and a red bandanna around the brim. He had a stopwatch hanging from his neck. He wore shoes with sticky bottoms. He looked like a yachting author.
I wore a baseball cap advertising a newspaper and looked like an aging shortstop about to get seasick.
A lot of guys on the press boat drank beer. I had two Dramamine floats. My idea of the high seas is a bubble bath. Before today, my longest boat ride has been inside my car on a ferry crossing the Potomac. So at 8:15 this morning I had my first seasick pill and I wasn't out of the motel yet.
But I was determined to see the world's slickest yacht race. These are the fancy-dan 12-meter jobs that might cost $1 million each. For 132 years the U.S. has kept the America's Cup.
"We are professionals as good at our sport as Jimmy Connors is at his," said John Marshall, the sail trimmer on the U.S. representative, Liberty. "Our bowman is the equivalent of a trained gymnast, our grinders are weightlifters, our tailers are the wide receivers, and our helmsman and tactician are the quarterbacks. By the end of a four-hour race, we are absolutely physically whipped, laying-in-the-bottom-of-the-boat whipped."
Even an old shortstop ought to look in on this yachting game.
It's big stuff here. On a scale of 1 to 10 for the great American sports events, the cup is maybe an 0.86. Woody Allen said he divorced his first wife because she was immature. Woody said, "I knew she was immature the time I was taking a bath and she came right in and sank all my boats." Besides, Americans don't like boats because they can't drive the things through the express lane at McDonald's.
The America's Cup is the Super Bowl for millionaires who wear blazers at high noon and speak without parting their lips.
Here in Newport, where houses are bigger than Switzerland, storefront windows show off America's Cup trinkets. Only $1,800 buys a teakwood model of a schooner.
There's a 118-foot yacht for sale: "Asking $4,950,000."
Anyway, we yachting authors were bobbing on the waves, gurg-a-lug, for two hours today waiting for the high-noon start. This promises to be a memorable America's Cup competition: Liberty against Australia II, with its mystery keel.
"Tension is rising," an Aussie radio man said into his microphone. He was doing play-by-play back to Sydney, where it was 2 o'clock in the morning.
I was tense, all right. I was out of Dramamine and the race would last more than four hours.
Overhead, the Goodyear blimp circled. There were 21 planes and helicopters aloft. There were enough boats to invade Cuba. The sun shone brilliantly and the breeze carried a salty smell. It was, Boss, a wonderful day for 12-meter racing.
But they postponed the start two hours. The wind had shifted and would mess up the first leg of the 24.3-mile race. A new member of SINK (Society of International Nautical Know-nothings) said, "This wouldn't happen if they held these races in the Astrodome. Anybody got any Dramamine?"
The yachting author d'Alpuget harrumphed. "With the controversy over the keel, this first day, for all Australians, is on a plane with the announcement of World War III," d'Alpuget said. "Now the bloody New York Yacht Club is postponing the race."
The N.Y. yachties not only sponsor the American entry, they run the America's Cup races.
When, two hours later, they tried another start, the wind shifted again as the boats approached the line. Australia II had taken a big lead in the important prestart maneuvering. The wind shift caused the NYYC to postpone the race a day.
"The suspicion is great, if unprovable, that the NYYC, a collection of baby eaters who wept crocodile tears over our keel, called this race off because Australia II had the better of it," d'Alpuget said.
Back on dry thank-you-God land, we chased after that suspicion. But the Aussie boat people said nothing of the sort. They said only that they're eager to get back on the water tomorrow.
Anyway, Boss, I'm writing you this note to let you know that it cost $70 for my boat ride today. So the way I figure it, by staying in bed tomorrow, I can save the company $70. Or $73.70, including a dozen Dramamine. Don't bother to thank me.