• Image about Dennis Conner
Each sailing race course is set up with a series of buoys, which are referred to as marks. The course configuration (triangular for today) will determine the number of marks. We head toward what is called the windward mark, located at the most upwind point of the course. In order to get to the windward mark, we must perform a series of tacks, or maneuvers, as we are headed to a point directly into the wind. The tactician determines the best times to tack true and exactly how to trim the sails. The key to a successful tack is simple in theory: quick and smooth. But as is true with anything in sailing, there is a method. You must be in the correct position with the wind prior to executing the maneuver, or the headsail and the sheet (the line connected to the sail that controls its position and shape) can get caught on the rigging, costing valuable time. So, as the grinders, we get quite a workout.

As we reach the windward mark, we are now about three boat lengths behind Abracadabra, but we still have two legs remaining in this challenge. We round another mark and head for the third one. We steadily gain ground as we make some minor adjustments to the sails, hoping to capture as much wind as possible to maintain or possibly even gain a bit of speed. And, thanks to our tactician and navigator, we are able to achieve it. As we approach the final mark, we gain the position needed to take the lead from Abracadabra and transition into the third leg of this challenge.

Now only one boat length ahead of our challenger, every maneuver and every movement count if we are to defend the cup. We near the final mark and prepare ourselves for the final run to the finish line, another windward leg, tacking to the finish. At the call of the tactician, we prepare to round the mark. Everything is solid as we execute our first tack … for a moment, anyway. Our timing is off, and we get caught up in the rigging, spilling the air out of our sail and killing our momentum. As a result, we are now running neck and neck with Abracadabra. Adrenalin pumping, we find the edge, tacking on Abracadabra’s air to create a covering position (stealing their wind), forcing them to tack out of the bad air and to the unfavorable side of the course. We cross the finish line with a 20-foot lead over Abracadabra.

After returning to the dock, we take a moment to look out over San Diego Bay. We were so wrapped up in the moment, in our adventure as America’s Cup yachtsmen, that we missed the beauty of our surroundings and all that this amazing city has to offer. The U.S.S. Midway, the longest-serving aircraft carrier in U.S. Naval history, is docked majestically along the Embarcadero and serves as a museum. Bay cruisers and tall ships dot the harbor, and the boardwalk is teeming with people enjoying all of the sights. “For me, San Diego is a place where anything can happen, a city full of opportunities,” Conner says. “To sail is to live, and San Diego has provided me with a life centered around that very thing.” So whether you seek a jaw-clenching race experience or a bit of family fun at attractions like SeaWorld or Legoland, head to San Diego. Events to thrill your senses abound, such as the San Diego International Film Festival in September and the San Diego Bay Wine & Food Festival in November. If being pampered is more your style, relax at one of the area hotels and resorts, such as the newly renovated Paradise Point Resort & Spa or the super-luxe Grand Del Mar.

As a result of the race, and with our victor status, bragging rights will not end today. Conner has invited me back to race with him in an upcoming regatta at the San Diego Yacht Club. So, with that invitation locked in, I will be back to this sailing city.