Local IndyCar driver, JR HILDEBRAND/Panther Racing Chevrolet, traded modes of transportation Tuesday at the San Francisco waterfront. The young racer, who was born in San Francisco and raised in nearby Sausalito, rode with Skipper JAMES SPITHILL and the Oracle Team USA-Spithill America’s Cup sailing team in the choppy, breezy Bay near the Golden Gate Bridge. It was part of the launch for the 34th America’s Cup which will happen next summer in the San Francisco Bay.
The current high-tech grand prix boat, the AC45, was designed by Oracle Team USA Design & Engineering Team. The multi-hulled catamaran has a wing which is 20 meters/66 feet tall, and is capable of speeds upwards of 20-30 knots/23-34.5 mph.
Hildebrand’s reaction – “It was awesome. It’s such a cool thing to be a part of. You don’t have to be going 200 mph to feel like you’re hauling ass. It’s a like-relationship, racing cars and racing boats. Everything’s very sensitive. How these guys work together to get right up against the other boats is really impressive. It gives me a lot of appreciation for what these guys do.”
Tuesday’s America’s Cup activities included practicing in the bay, followed by a Meet The Skippers presentation, with Q&A. Hildebrand was part of the festivities, and invited the skippers to try his world – come for a ride in the IndyCar two-seater car.
Hildebrand, 24, said he got a “bird’s eye of the team working.” He was ‘handed the reins’ after the afternoon race. “It was touchy; steering the boat on its side, keeping the hull in the air is impressive. Aerodynamics is involved. I was surprised at how quickly it takes off. I appreciate the skill it takes to sail the boat, and it was neat to get a feel for it.” The most important thing Hildebrand learned on the boat was to “hang on.”
Afterwards, JR, who has done some recreational sailing, said “I’ll stick to four-wheels.