A Discovery Bay couple had a fisheye view of Oracle Team USA clinching the America's Cup title last week, as they captured the come-from-behind win aboard the 132-foot historic motor yacht Acania.
"In the beginning it was harder to tell," Mike Guzzardo said. "You're listening on the radio -- you're hearing what's going on -- you're seeing it from afar and then as they move closer and boats are real close, then all of sudden they built such a gap you could see from anywhere on the bay that Oracle was just pulling away.
"Everybody was fever-pitch excited," said Guzzardo, who watched the race with his wife Jules, and several dozen others, near mark four on the course, aboard family-friend Dave Olson's restored 1930s yacht.
Guzzardo said that there were cheers and high-fives all around as Oracle Team USA made history before their eyes.
While remarkable as the race was, it is the near century's worth of history behind the "high-end luxury yacht" they watched it from that is truly noteworthy.
Commissioned in 1930 by prominent Wall Street banker Arthur E. Wheeler, but actually rumored to have been built for Al Capone, Guzzardo said, "There's no official record -- of course there wouldn't be -- but you know there were some storage holds that just didn't feel like they would store water or fuel. So they assumed they might've been used to store prohibitive booze -- or were going to be."
In addition to the four staterooms, the Acania had a sitting room, sun decks, formal dining and galleys, and crew quarters, there was "a hideaway bar (an obvious necessity for the prohibition era)." The rumor of Capone's ownership is attributed to "the many hidden and disguised lockers, including a hidden champagne locker, and the unusual coating on the water tank with out-of-place piping masquerading as tank vents and fill pipes," according to the boat's website.
The Acania also served a short stint during World War II when the U.S. Navy commandeered the yacht from then owners, the Walgreen family, for which they were compensated $1 a year.
In 1949, Acania again made history when she became the first personal yacht to be fitted with a television, an upgrade at the time, which was worthy of a feature in Radio Age magazine.
Left to languish for the past 40 years, Olson acquired her in 2008 and began an extensive five-year restoration in Alameda.
"She is absolutely gorgeous," Guzzardo said. "It's just the detail in the woodwork and trying to keep her original. (Olson) was able to find some original pieces that he thought he'd never find ... I would say almost exactly as she was."
Guzzardo added, "It really is a labor of love -- I mean it's not anything that is going to make him money -- it's just because he is passionate about history."