Posted by: acooksca | 08/23/2013

Up Close to America’s Cup Sailing in San Francisco

Italy's boat blasts over the finish line just feet from the dock.

Italy’s boat blasts over the finish line just feet from the dock.

It is a blustery summer day on beautiful San Francisco Bay. We stand on a dock with several hundred others and watch as two AC72’s, the fastest, most demanding catamarans on the planet streak by at nearly 50 miles an hour. Actually, they fly using towering solid wings (instead of sails) that can adjust to give the boat a speed of 3 times the wind. In little more than a breeze both carbon-fiber hulls raise up leaving only a thin foil touching the water. The compact race course is close to land, wedged between Crissy Field and Pier 27, with multiple turns around markers. As we watch the Italian boat slides around the final marker, points right at us and blasts forward to win the race, coming within feet of our dock. A collective whoop goes up. The boat is so close we clearly see the 11-man crew panting, catching their breath.

New Zealand achieves "flight" in front of Alcatraz

New Zealand achieves “flight” in front of Alcatraz

The America’s Cup is held every three years.  The winner picks the location of the next race and also writes the sailing instructions including the type of boat to be used. In 2010 the U.S. team lead by Larry Ellison, CEO of the Bay Area tech company ORACLE, won off Spain with a giant trimaran. He chose to bring the race to San Francisco, the first time in its 162 year history the America’s Cup has been held in a bay instead of open water.  The catamaran he chose is designed for eye-popping speed, minimal draft and split second dexterity which makes the race both dangerous and very exciting for close-in spectating.

“The race has gone very high-tech this year with the AC-72’s.  By regulation the boat’s hull has to be manufactured in the country it represents, however much of the design and assembly happens in New Zealand. They have the leading-edge in sailing design and building down there and, I guess, tons of carbon fiber.” We are talking to Jimmy Chan who fills us in on the races and teams from one of the many information desks along the waterfront.  “The captains are saying this is one of the most demanding sail race courses in the world… winds are strong and wild, the currents are constantly changing and the course is tight.”

The U.S. will defend The Cup starting in Sept.

The U.S. team will defend The Cup starting in Sept.

Historically, San Francisco has re-invented itself again and again from its docks.  Beneath the new America’s Cup Park at Pier 27 lie the hulks of abandoned sailing ships that braved Cape Horn in 1849.  In the 1860’s this waterfront was home to Italian fisherman.  Schooners carrying wheat and North Coast lumber out and Asian immigrants back were centered here in the late 1800’s.  Global cargo lines occupied the piers in the early 1900’s and the U.S. Navy during World War 2.  But the Port of San Francisco fell on hard times in the 1960’s when container shipping moved to the more advantageous Port of Oakland. It has been struggling since then to find a purpose for under-utilized piers.  But the waterfront was transformed earlier this year by the America’s Cup Park which features technology exhibits, giant outdoor screens showing the sailing, bars and cafes, children’s activities, a 9,000-seat concert venue and lounging areas for just sitting on a dock of The Bay.

Venison Tartare at New Zealand's pop-up restaurant, Waiheke Island Y. C.

Venison Tartare at New Zealand’s pop-up restaurant, Waiheke Island Y. C.

During August we are watching the challenger’s races called The Louis Viutton Cup. Starting in September the top-rated challenger will sail against the defending ORACLE boat for the America’s Cup.  Our job, which we take seriously, is to scope out favorite vantage points from which to watch while pausing to enjoy a crab cocktail at Fisherman’s Wharf, warm up with a cappuccino in North Beach, sip a cocktail in one of the 40 waterside café/bars or have a dinner of contemporary New Zealand cuisine at a pop-up restaurant nestled in one of the piers.  There is always so much to keep one entertained on the San Francisco waterfront and this summer even more so.



  1. Cool…..

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: