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San Francisco: A Golden Gate Opportunity

The Golden Gate Bridge, Fisherman’s Wharf, cable cars, Lombard Street, Alcatraz—San Francisco is unquestionably one of the world’s most iconic cities. Soon San Francisco will also be able to add the 34th America’s Cup finals to its pedigree.

The Golden Gate Bridge, Fisherman’s Wharf, cable cars, Lombard Street, Alcatraz—San Francisco is unquestionably one of the world’s most iconic cities. Soon San Francisco will also be able to add the 34th America’s Cup finals to its pedigree.

Photos ORACLE Racing,

San Francisco has all the all ingredients to make a stellar America’s Cup spectacle. The setting, the racecourse, powerful high-tech catamarans and new technology to help bring the show closer to the audience will all play a part in making it a special event.


San Francisco already has a lot going for it. Organizers have set up the America’s Cup Village in a prime location at the spruced-up Embarcadero near piers 27 to 29 where the famed San Francisco seals usually meet to catch sunrays. You do not have to go far to find things to do. The nearby Ferry Building, also on the waterfront, is filled with bustling stalls of art, food and objects of all kinds. A plethora of restaurants and ice cream stalls featuring Cabernet and Chardonnay flavors hint at all that the region has to offer beyond the bridges. Wine country is a scant hour drive away, and the cities across the bay like Sausalito and Berkeley are well worth a detour. (Please turn to next page for tips from San Francisco insider Quincy Roth.)

The beautiful bay environment is itself the quintessential sports arena. Wind speeds averaging 20 to 25 knots 99 percent of the time should be ideal for the new AC catamarans. From piers 27 to 29, the racecourse will stretch across the city shoreline by Crissy Field, the Marina Green and Aquatic Park, with the Golden Gate Bridge serving as an eye-catching backdrop. “You couldn’t design a better course for a racing regatta,” says Russell Coutts, winner of four America’s Cups and an Olympic gold medal. “The Gate funnels the wind right into the racecourse. With the bridge on one end, Alcatraz on the other and the city’s coast along the side, you’d be hard-pressed with a blank piece of paper to create a better racing arena.” AC Race Director Iain Murray puts it this way: “San Francisco Bay is a natural amphitheater.”

Historically, the America’s Cup took place miles off shore. But race organizers have worked hard to bring the action closer to shore and to a larger audience. With Puma-attired 24-year-old ace athletes deftly scrambling on board carbon-fiber catamarans with wing sails, what a show it promises to be for spectators on and off shore. Millions will be able to capture the action on NBC and, this being the century of social media, YouTube. Famed racer and sportscaster Gary Jobson, who narrated the AC World Series event in Newport in June 2012 for NBC, once again will make sure even the uninitiated can understand what goes on during the 2013 America’s Cup. It is not always easy to grasp the rules and the history of this hotly contested Cup, and he is able to bring his audience quickly up to speed.

Technology also will be a big help in making the contest more spectacular and interactive. Each of the high-tech carbon catamarans will carry multiple cameras, ensuring that anyone watching the race on a TV screen will be able to follow the action blow by blow. Graphics added to live video feeds will help both spectators and racers understand who is in the lead. The innovative system, called LiveLine, is the brainchild of Emmy-winner and America’s Cup Technology Director Stan Honey and his team. They were able to bring to high-speed sailboat racing the same kind of technology already used in sports such as football and hockey—think arrows and circles highlighting points of contention and identifying contestants. In this case, the graphics will also help racers know exactly how close they are to boundaries and help them avoid penalties. The engaging close-ups, live video feeds and interactive technology may also help attract a new and younger audience, which is one of the America’s Cup organizers’ goals.


The truth is everyone, regardless of age, can get excited about a good race. And the new AC72 catamarans should deliver. These high-tech wing-sailed multihulls are new to the America’s Cup. Teams have raced multihulls before, but this series is the first to use the new-generation AC cats, starting with the AC45s. One of the reasons they were introduced is that they are uniform and help even out the playing field. Easily broken down, containerized and shipped to the various ports of call, they can be launched by a crane and plunked into the water. They are also light, fast and able to perform in 10 as well as 25 knots of wind. Earlier races (Newport in June 2012, for instance) offered quite a show with the teams battling out aboard speedy AC45s. The next-generation Cat, the AC72, equipped with 131-foot (40-meter) wing sails (about 12 stories high) is far more powerful. While the 72 designs are yet unproven on the racecourse, the boats are predicted to reach speeds of more than 40 knots. It will take a tremendous amount of skill and physical strength for the crew of 11 to maneuver around a racecourse, cornering the marks at such high speed.

The city of San Francisco also kicked into high gear as soon as race organizers announced the location for the finals. The America’s Cup finals and associated Louis Vuitton series are prestigious events. Kyri McClellan, CEO of the ACOC (America’s Cup Organizing Committee), says the city expects 3.6 million visitors to attend the events, yielding slightly more than $1 billion in increased activity in the Bay Area. Some of the windfall will benefit areas such as the Embarcadero, as well as city and national parks. But there is another dimension to this, one important to the “green-conscious” San Francisco residents.

Wendy Schmidt, a member of the ACOC and a racing sailor, touts the America’s Cup as the significant player in the worldwide movement to protect the oceans’ environment. She says, “The whole event aims to create no waste, be carbon neutral and sensitive to the local ecosystems.” An America’s Cup directive, for instance, disallows the use of single-serve plastic bottles, encouraging instead the use of refillable bottles at conveniently located water stations. However, the credo of the 34th AC is “sustainability,” which organizers define as “optimizing the social, economic and environmental impacts of our activities…to enrich the communities we visit and protect natural ecosystems.”

“With so much focus on our city and the bay, we have an opportunity to create a change in San Francisco that is meaningful to the millions of people sharing the event remotely,” she concludes.

The 34th America’s Cup is intended to have far-reaching implications all around. The message is that it is a race no longer for the rarified few. The hope is that sailing can be enjoyed as easily as any other sport.

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The America’s Cup will have piers with berths available at the Embarcadero: Piers 27 to 29 (main race village area near the finish line), Pier 23 North, Pier 19 South, Pier 9 and pier 30 to 32. Several companies offer packages for the Louis Vuitton Cup Round Robin series (July 2013), the Louis Vuitton semi-final and finals (August) and the America’s Cup match including the Red Bull Youth America’s Cup (September). In addition to dockage, the packages include VIP access, 24-hour concierge service, two tickets to the VIP hospitality club each race day, tickets to the prize-giving ceremonies, plus entry to the superyacht regatta for yachts berthed in the America’s Cup village during the AC Match. Packages are available from Fraser Yachts, BWA and Ocean Independence.


More info at, and

While you’re there

The Blue Barn

The Blue Barn

San Francisco insider Quincy Roth offers her local knowledge of what’s hip in San Francisco’s inner neighborhoods:

Hayes Valley is the ideal weekend spot. Put Bar Jules ( on your radar for brunch and Acrimony ( for well-curated women’s and men’s ware.
Chestnut Street ( Sidewalk cafés, busy bars and boutiques cover the Marina main drag. Don’t miss Delarosa ( for delectable paper-thin Italian pizza and a celebrated cocktail list, California Wine Merchants ( for a window-seat wine tasting and Blue Barn ( for a spot-on cappuccino.
Washington Square Park: Newcomer to the fine dining scene is Park Tavern (, where you can dine alfresco overlooking a small city park and enjoy a seriously delightful nouveau-American menu. Afterward, consider the authentic gelato of Italia on nearby Columbus Street or late-night drinks at the appropriately Barbary Coast-themed Comstock Saloon (

America’s Cup for Beginners:

Columbia and Shamrock II racing in 1901

Columbia and Shamrock II racing in 1901

• The America���s Cup is the oldest trophy in international sport; nine contests for the America’s Cup took place before the first modern Olympic Games were held in Athens in 1896.
• The first AC was spawned by the 1851 Royal Yacht Squadron’s 100 Pound Cup, where the schooner America, representing the New York Yacht Club, was the winner.
• The first America’s Cup (as it was renamed) was in 1857.
• The New York Yacht Club had a virtually unbroken winning streak from 1857 until 1983.
• The “Deed of Gift of the America’s Cup” sets the rules and conduct. They state that any yacht club has the right to challenge the “Defender” of the Cup and that the winner gains stewardship of the Cup. Thus, the terms “Defender” and “Challenger.”
• ACOC stands for America’s Cup Organizing Committee; CEO is Kyri McClellan.
• The much-publicized court case between Swiss Team Alinghi’s Ernesto Bertarelli and Larry Ellison of BMW Oracle Racing was about the fairness of the competition.
• San Francisco resident Ellison won the battle in 2010. A more uniform approach to the races included the decision to use the new multihulls and the creation of a new racing style.
• Teams of five crew are sailing on the new AC45 catamarans; at the close of the second season of AC World Series racing in May 2013, teams will switch to bigger and much more powerful AC72 catamarans with teams of 11.
• The current “Defender” is Larry Ellison’s ORACLE TEAM USA.
• The Louis Vuitton Cup Challenger series July 4th to Sept 1, 2012 will determine the “Challenger.”
• The Final AC in San Francisco will take place in September 7 to 23, 2013.