For a few hours Friday, the focus at the California Academy of Sciences was not on marine life, earthquakes or astronomy.
Instead, visitors were posing with a tall silver trophy that had its own security guards for protection and occupies a seat when flying on commercial airlines.
The appearance of the America’s Cup did have some links to the kind of science education the academy is known for, however.
A display drawing parallels between the fast sailboats that competed this weekend on San Francisco Bay and the speediest fish in the ocean has occupied the academy’s piazza area throughout the summer.
Just off the exhibition area, an Oracle Racing sailboat is suspended from the ceiling and fans of the Oracle team can buy genuine t-shirts and other cup memorabilia at a nearby kiosk.
Admittedly the cup is quite a stunner. It’s polished to a high silver gloss and with a telephoto camera lens you can make out the marks of the British silversmiths who made it in the mid-19th century.
Hey, it’s the oldest sporting trophy in the world, older even than the medals given out at the modern Olympic Games which were revived at the turn of the century.
Despite its status as the kind of prize yacht syndicates will spend millions to obtain, the cup can be used for drinking as the winning crew will demonstrate when they celebrate with champagne sometime this month.
It resembles a claret jug; claret being a wine enjoyed by Queen Victoria and other members of the English one percent in 1851. The first winners were a Yankee crew sailing a boat appropriately named “America.”