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If you think watching sailing is less than exciting, think again. America’s Cup finals, a regatta legend, has landed back on US water for the first time in 18 years. San Francisco Bay is currently playing host to the world’s top 2 teams — Oracle Team USA and Emirates Team New Zealand — as they compete in the best-of-17 series that runs until September 21. Wearing lifejackets and helmets, these world-class sailors foil above the water and carve through massive white caps, led by their captains and tacticians to manipulate 72-foot catamarans. Not impressed? Here’s a video that might change your mind.

But this particular America’s Cup is even more intriguing than fast boats and a prestigious reputation. Oracle Team USA, the defending champions, started the regatta under major scrutiny, and so far it’s showing in the results.

Just days before America’s Cup started on September 7, an international jury fined Oracle $250,000 and slammed the team with a 2-race penalty. Why? In a cheating scandal dating back to an America’s Cup World Series warm-up event in 2012, the jury found a sailor and 2-dock crew guilty of adding lead pellets to the forward posts of a 45-foot catamaran. Yikes. It’s the most severe penalty ever dolled out in America’s Cup history and — fair or not — the fall out is such: USA must win 11 races to retain the trophy, and New Zealand only needs to win 9. So far, New Zealand has trounced team USA in every race but one. Perhaps USA will pull it together to keep the trophy from the Kiwis. But one thing’s certain: given the off-and-onshore drama, this is a regatta to watch. Here’s how.

America’s Cup Course Loop

The course races 2 loops across San Francisco Bay in a semi-figure-eight pattern from the Golden Gate Bridge past Alcatraz to the finish buoy in front of the Bay Bridge.

Where to Watch

You can glimpse the race from the viewing areas along the northern and eastern San Francisco waterfront. America’s Cup Village, located at Marina Green, has bleacher seating. Or, do what I did and head right to America’s Cup Park at Piers 27/29. This area lines up perpendicular with the finish buoy. Giant TV screens track the boats and provide pretty cool graphic images of wind analysis throughout the race. Watch the finish from the waterside railing behind the park, and hang around for the second race (2 run per race day). Grab a glass of Napa or Sonoma wine at one of the bars in the park areas and kick back on the faux grass with a mix of USA and New Zealand fans. Free entry.

 

By Patty Hodapp

Patty Hodapp is a freelance writer and solo traveler reporting from the intersection of fitness and adventure. Her slew of expat addresses runs deep — most recently, a tropical Spanish island in the Mediterranean. She covers endurance sports, outdoor gear and adventure travel. Besides Travel Channel, she has written for Outside, Men’s Fitness, Shape and several other publications.


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And as Adam finds out first-hand, the tailgating scene is equally massive. From an out-of-service ambulance turned into a rowdy party vehicle to Bret Michael’s own rocked-out RV, the Indy 500 superfans take their parking lot parties to new levels.

The Indianapolis Motor Speedway holds race events year-round, so if you’re jonesing for a little race action of your own, check out our Indianapolis travel guide for a few tips!

 

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Want to get in on the Spring Fling action, but having a hard time since you’re … you know … single? Then grab a buddy, and fling about the nation’s ballparks!

Baseball season is in full swing, which means you’ve got one more thing to add to your sightseeing list while on vacation: rooting for the home team. While there are plenty of people who have “visit all 30 Major League Baseball stadiums in the country” on their bucket list, you don’t have to be quite so ambitious to make your trip ballin’.

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1.     Download the MLB’s At The Ballpark app. With it, you have access to every team’s full schedule, the ability to buy tickets and find promotions, as well as a map and a full A to Z guide of anything and everything you could need while at the park.

2.    Call the team’s front office ahead of time.  On the team’s website, search for an employee directory and contact the person who has something “community”-related in their title. They’ll be able to tell you if tours are offered or they might be able to hook you up with a special experience of some kind. (One-on-one time with the mascot, maybe?) Hey, it doesn’t hurt to ask! Just let them know how big of a fan you are.

3.     Explore the city! Keep a few days available, just in case your game gets rained out. But while you’re there, check out the landmarks, search for an awesome restaurant, find a baseball museum (chances are pretty good there’s one nearby).

4.     Don’t make a beeline to the first hotdog stand you see. Walk the entire perimeter of the park and survey all your options. In fact, ballpark food is more varied now than ever. At Camden Yards in Baltimore, keep an eye out for the Jack Daniel’s Grill and their slab of whiskey-glazed, thick-cut bacon on a stick. Or how about some frozen custard from the Shake Shack at Citi Field in New York? You never know what you might find!

5.     Speaking of things you never knew you’d find, a few parks have unexpected perks. A pool and Jacuzzi at Chase Field in Phoenix? Sure, why not? An aquarium at Tropicana Park in Tampa Bay? Lead the way!

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Football fans unite! The big game is heading to The Big Easy, where 2 of the most dominant defenses in the last decade are set to square off. The culmination of the 2012-2013 NFL season comes down to one final game between the San Francisco 49ers, led by head coach Jim Harbaugh, and the Baltimore Ravens, led by Jim’s brother, head coach John Harbaugh. In a game that’s being dubbed “The Har-Bowl,” football’s biggest stage is set, and you better believe N’awlins will be hoppin’ more than NOLA’s Mardi Gras and Jazz Fest.

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On 2, on 2. Down. Set. Hut. Hut! Weeden drops back, has Watson over the middle, fires to the back of the end zone — TOUCHDOWN! That’s the sound of 9-year veteran Ben Watson catching his second touchdown of the afternoon on the road against the Dallas Cowboys in their 3-million-square-foot, $1.5 billion stadium.

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When the bye week is complete, it’s back to business as usual. As practice begins on Wednesday, Simon Gelan, the operations manager, has already landed in Dallas to prepare every detail of the team’s visit. From planning meals to facilitating a stadium walkthrough, Simon works around the clock in the days leading up to the game to make sure everything goes off without a hitch.

Cowboys stadium also plays host to a high school football game on Saturday night, making the job of the equipment staff even tougher than most game days. After getting to stadium at 5 a.m. on Sunday morning, the staff works diligently to shine helmets, clean cleats and set up the lockers before the players arrive.

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