(This is part of a series, Blogging from A to Z April 2014 Challenge. My theme for the challenge is Quintessential San Diego from A to Z, focusing on those things that are  typical, or perfect, or classic examples of San Diego life. Today is Y.)

Who better to learn about the San Diego yachting scene than from an America’s Cup crew member? And guess what? I just happen to know one! Jens Herberg was a classmate in junior high and high school. He graciously answered my (somewhat ignorant) questions. Take it away, Jens:

Jens Herberg Hoists Spinnaker on Dennis Conner’s Stars & Stripes During 2012 Yachting Cup Regatta in San Diego.  Photo by Christy Radecic

Hey, Donna, thanks for thinking of me! To the point, I was crew for Dennis Conner’s Stars & Stripes America’s Cup effort in the 32nd America’s Cup in Auckland, New Zealand held in the years of 2002 and 2003. I was what was known as a “B” team mastman.

The America’s Cup takes months to contest. First there is a lengthy challengers’ elimination round called the Louis Vuitton Cup that lasts for months until they finally end up with a winner and ultimate challenger for the America’s Cup itself in a race off against the holder of the cup – when I was crew, New Zealand was the holder – or defender – of the cup. It’s all somewhat complicated and typically arcane for the sport of yacht racing.

Yachting in SD is pretty diverse. The most prestigious yacht club (YC) in SD is San Diego Yacht Club. This is the YC that I did almost all of my sailing – amateur and professional – out of. This is the yacht club of Dennis Conner, the America’s Cup, and some of the most powerful people in SD. It is expensive, exclusive and surprisingly down to earth. The people I was able to meet there was amazing.

Yachts, power and sail, are located all over SD bay, from south bay through Coronado and all over Harbor Island and Shelter Island. The truly massive ones are tied up behind the SD Convention Center.

If you wanted to see some interesting boats up close, hang out at the end of Shelter Island near the Japanese Friendship Bell and watch as the boats transit from the marinas and YC’s of Shelter Island into the bay. If sailing is your thing and you are interested in the America’s Cup stuff, you can pay to sail on one of two actual AC (America’s Cup) boats – two boats which I have a lot of time on sailing for Dennis Conner – through Next Level Sailing. They keep the 80 foot, carbon fiber, titanium and kevlar beasties at one of the tuna piers on the Embarcadero. Next Level also owns a replica of the boat – the America – that won the first race in 1850 off of the Isle of Wight, England, the race that became the America’s Cup. It’s an impressive yacht and well worth the admission price to spend a day sailing on her. They even do whale watching trips.

Yachting is an odd activity full of its own terminology, curiosities and history. Yacht racing is an arcane exercise accomplished at distance-runner speeds on highly-engineered, sometimes high tech beasts that seem to specialize in bruising and abrading. It is profoundly rewarding, sometimes heart-breaking and almost always the perfect antidote to the everyday world. Everything that is bothersome or worrying in one’s life gets left behind once one pushes off from the dock. It is a profoundly cleansing activity. It is no wonder that people are willing to spend thousands upon thousands of dollars – sometimes millions – to own, maintain and use a boat. I found my specialty in using others’ boats after owning a couple of the things and tiring of the ridiculous expense.

Yachts and yachting suffer from an image problem in the US as an activity of the rich and snobbish – a sport or activity of the idle wealthy out of touch with the real world. In other parts of the world like Europe, New Zealand and Australia it is a sport for the masses, accessible and closely followed. As a member of Stars & Stripes in New Zealand AC, I was treated like a rock star professional athlete. I was stopped for autographs, went to the head of the line in busy restaurants and was offered any number of things gratis. Very different from anything I had ever experienced and very different from any status I have outside of the sailing community in the US.

Yachting in San Diego is a very large contributor to the overall economy in the city. Each America’s Cup cycle in SD was said to equal the economic impact of two Super Bowls. On an ordinary level, boating and boating expenditures have an outsize impact on the economic health of the city. The ordinary San Diegan has little idea that yachting is anything more than a fringe activity for the wealthy.

Thank you, Jens. What an articulate guy. I love this quote: It is profoundly rewarding, sometimes heart-breaking and almost always the perfect antidote to the everyday world. Makes you want to get on a boat and go sailing, doesn’t it?

We may not be able to own a yacht, but we love seeing the sailboats in San Diego Bay.

San Diego is a premier site for yachting, because of its fine, deep harbor, year-round good weather, and access to other great ports on the West Coast. Many of the same reasons that make San Diego a Navy Town. The U.S.’s East Coast yachting capital, Fort Lauderdale, Florida, has a hurricane season that San Diegans don’t have to worry about.

San Diego port commissioners want to host the next America’s Cup yacht races, and directed the staff of the Port of San Diego to present a bid on the event scheduled for 2017.

Should San Diego win the hosting rights, it would be the city’s fourth America’s Cup. It hosted the event in 1988, 1992, and 1995, with all the competitions held in the Pacific Ocean near Point Loma

Jens’ statements on the economic impact of the America’s cup can be corroborated by a San Francisco report, which estimated that the increase in overall economic activity in San Francisco for hosting the 34th America’s Cup could be on the order of $1.4 billion, almost three times the estimated impact of hosting the Super Bowl ($300-$500 million).

Some might not think that yachting is Quintessentially San Diegan. But it turns out that San Diego is a Quintessential Yachting City.

I truly hope San Diego wins the bid for the 2017 America’s Cup..

And I really enjoyed learning about the San Diego yachting scene from Jens. I hope you did, too!