ALAMEDA -- "Sailing," the 1980 Grammy Award-winning song by Christopher Cross, paints a picture of a peaceful activity on placid waters.
Sailing -- the America's Cup version -- often deals with the realities of stiff winds, choppy waters and high swells.
This year, the America's Cup comes to San Francisco Bay for the first time. Among the competitors is Artemis Racing, the Challenger of Record that represents the Royal Swedish Yacht Club and makes Alameda its home base in preparation for this summer's event.
On Feb. 28, Artemis Racing's Paul Cayard and Tom Schnackenberg addressed a packed house at the Alameda Theatre, apprising the public about the America's Cup, including possible scenarios that sailors might face.
For starters, this year's 34th America's Cup marks the debut of the state-of-the-art AC72 yachts, 72-foot catamarans with masts more than 130 feet tall..
"The wind will be blowing 20 to 30 knots this summer," said Cayard, Artemis Racing's CEO. "And one of the challenges is that we're not experienced multihull sailors."
Previous versions of the America's Cup involved monohulled boats sailing mostly on open seas near the host yacht club. San Francisco Bay offers unique challenges.
"It's a relatively small course and the wind is probably the strongest ever that we have experienced in July," said Schnackenberg, performance and design liaison for Artemis Racing. "Then there's the strength of the current. (The water) is relatively shallow here and it can get rough."
Sailing -- offering competition in various vessel classes -- has been long a part of the Summer Olympics since their 1896 inception. Given the attention paid to more "traditional" sports such as track and field, critics often pan sailors as "nonathletic."
But one look at the strapping men clad in Artemis Racing's red team shirts easily puts such stereotypes to rest.
"Another part of sailing that I like is the athletic aspect of it all," Cayard said. "These big catamarans require a high fitness level -- sometimes it's required just to save your life."
As such, sailors go through a rigorous training regimen, for during competitions heart rates can reach maximum levels and typically average 91 percent of maximum.
Surely, this type of training helped prepare the sailors of rival USA Team Oracle, whose catamaran capsized during a trial on the bay in October. Though Oracle's wing sail/mast was destroyed and much equipment was lost, the crew came through unscathed.