While I was in San Francisco last weekend, I had the opportunity to watch several of the AC34 races between OTUSA and ETNZ up close and personal. We were out practicing in the Melges 24 and decided to sail up to the AC starting area, just to the southeast of the Golden Gate Bridge. Being in a Melges 24, we were able to get in quite close to the action, for both the starting sequences and for the weather mark roundings.
Let me say that the spectacle of the big 72's blasting along on their foils is very impressive indeed, and seeing the action on the water is definitely the way to go, at least a few times. Otherwise, I think the racing is actually more enjoyable to watch on a video screen. In many respects, it is like any sport where the action takes place over an extended "playing field" - e.g., F1, cycling, skiing, etc. You get to see a little bit of the action right in front of you, but the rest takes place out of view, so you're not really witnessing "the race" per se
Unfortunately, we missed the dramatic moment on Saturday when ETNZ nearly flipped the boat. However, we did witness the terrific second race on Sunday where the two boats swapped the lead all the way up the windward leg until ETNZ was able to snatch the lead by getting to the favored starboard gate, with more breeze and better angle on the north side of the course.
The one thing that stands out the most from watchng the boats in person is simply how fast they are going, in both directions. It just doesn't seem possible that boats this large are able to sail this fast and in almost total control - the tacking and gybing, for ETNZ in particular, was flawless, though OTUSA was showing much better form when we saw them than they had in the early races.
Anyway, looks like the Cup is heading to New Zealand, so perhaps we can look forward to something a bit more user-friendly next time around. Would prefer to see smaller boats with more teams and strict crew nationality requirements. No team should be able to call itself "___________Team USA" and have only 1-2 Americans on the boat (unless the boat is a Laser or 49er).