Bay area resident wins America’s Cup “Battle for the Bay” contest

Winner of ACWS Bay Area Challenge © ACEA 2012 / Photo: Gilles Martin-Raget


© ACEA 2012 / Photo: Gilles Martin-Raget


© ACEA 2012 / Photo: Gilles Martin-Raget


© ACEA 2012 / Photo: Gilles Martin-Raget


© ACEA 2012 / Photo: Gilles Martin-Raget


© ACEA 2012 / Photo: Gilles Martin-Raget


The Guest Racer position aboard the AC45 is an experience not to be missed. So says Christine Oneto, the winner of the America’s Cup Facebook sweepstakes “Battle for the Bay” that offered a guest ride aboard an AC45 and a trip to Napa Valley for two nights.

Oneto, a Bay area native, rode aboard Luna Rossa Swordfish yesterday with skipper Max Sirena, helmsman Iker Martinez and the other crew in the first fleet race of the America’s Cup World Series San Francisco. Oneto, a 45-year-old a field sales rep for a media/marketing company and an amateur sailor, was randomly selected from nearly 5,000 entries received.

In winning the contest Oneto also received a two-night stay at the St. Regis San Francisco, a Garmin nüvi 3490LMT automotive GPS receiver and $200 worth of official America’s Cup merchandise from PUMA, and a trip for two to Napa Valley that included accommodation, a $200 meal credit for one of Napa’s Michelin-starred restaurants, a $250 credit for spa treatments and two private VIP wine tasting and tour experiences.

“I couldn’t quite believe that I’d won, it took a day for it to sink in. But when it did I was very excited,” said Oneto, who lives in the North Bay area. “It was such an amazing experience. It was a bit scary at times, but very enjoyable.”

Oneto has sailed in Wednesday night beer can races out of Santa Cruz and also took a one week certification class in the San Juan Islands in Puget Sound. She hopes to retire to Washington someday, but in the meantime volunteers as crew on boats at every chance. Her ultimate goal is to captain a 40-footer on her own.

It’s likely, however, that she’ll never go as fast as yesterday.

“I’ve never been over 10 knots boatspeed before,” said Oneto. “In the pre-start we were sailing about 13 or 14 knots. I had trouble seeing the speedo during the race because of the angle, but I think we hit 28 knots.

“It was such an exciting experience, but more exhausting than I expected,” Oneto continued. “I can see how athletic the sailors need to be. We were so close to the other boats at times, I thought Artemis was going to hit us at one point. It’s amazing the sailors’ ability to know how to tack and turn to avoid the collisions.”

Oneto is half-Italian, so she was thrilled to ride aboard Luna Rossa Swordfish, skippered by Max Sirena. “They made it so easy for me. It was a mixture of awe and being in the moment during the race. I was aware that I could fall off the boat, at other times I took the opportunity to look around and take in the whole experience. It was awe inspiring when we were next to Oracle and J.P. Morgan.”

Oneto said she was cold and tired when she stepped back onto terra firma, but will value the experience for the rest of her life. “It was amazing, exhilarating, such an adrenaline rush! And I held on the whole time! I’d do it again in a heartbeat, as exhausted as I am.”