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America’s Cup Bust?

I want to be excited about the fact that the America’s Cup is being held in San Francisco, I really do. But I can’t. I live at anchor in Sausalito where I can watch the races from every porthole – even while taking a leak. A quick 20 minute sail and I can have front row seats. Yet on opening day for the 2013 America’s Cup challenger series I choose to row to the farmers market, get a bundle of carrots and snap peas, and go stare into the broken screen on my computer at the local cafe. I couldn’t care much less about the racing. Here’s a brief rant about why…

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The AC45’s at the start of the World Series race series. Racing sure is more exciting when there is more than one boat.

Initially they race organizers were expecting fifteen challengers for the 2013 America’s Cup Challenge. However to get a boat to the start line will set each team back about $100 million and after the 2010 economic recession the billionaire squad was apparently feeling a little strapped for cash. Never fear though, where there are egos there is a race. This leaves with us with software billinaire Larry Ellison/USA ($43 billion), oil manganate Tornquist/Sweden (8.7 billion), Prada CEO Bertelli (6.7 billion). Team New Zealand is the only non billionaire funded team and is sponsored by the New Zealand Government and Emarates.

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The AC45’s Prada and Artemis

The stage is set. Four teams competing for the oldest trophy in international sport on the highest tech catamarans ever built. The race would be held in one of the most spectator friendly venues possible and would be the most highly promoted sailing event in history. Sounds good enough at this stage of the game. At least good enough to justify staying in San Francisco through the summer trying to run sailing charters to build a little cruising kitty.

Two months ago realities of the race decisions started to present themselves. Artemis Racing of Sweden suffered a wipeout that proved fatal to not only the boat but to a member of the crew. This brings us from three challengers to two. All of a sudden these big powerful catamarans didn’t seem quite as fun anymore. The race officers issued a number of safety regulations, 37 to be exact. One of which was a last minute mandatory alteration to the rudder foils that would apply to New Zealand and Italy but not Oracle. Team NZ and Italy argued that this design change would not make the boats safer but would give Oracle a competitive edge. They filed a protest to the international race jury that the race officers have no authority to mandate these changes. Great. The races are back in the court room.

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Ok. So I have to admit that the cats are pretty incredible machines.

I learn at this stage that to save costs and time, Italy bought the design from New Zealand. The boats are identical! Since the first cup race in 1851 the race has always been about design innovation… to put the best naval design from one country against the best design from another country. See who wins. This race would determine who is the master of shipbuilding and in essence would rule the seas. Now we have identical boats. And wait there’s more… The head dude for team USA is a Kiwi while the head dude for Team Sweden is an American. Whatever. I’m ranting. Moving on.

Out of “principle” Italy decided to boycott the races until a ruling was issued. Word has it that New Zealand wanted to boycott as well but their sponsorship agreements mandated that they race. Meanwhile Sweden is working around the clock trying to build a new boat to join the races later in the summer. So come day one of racing for the highly promoted Louis Vuitton Cup, we’re down from two boats to one.

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Team New Zealand racing themselves.

This brings us back to today – Day 1 of the highly anticipated and promoted Louis Vuitton Cup. As luck would have it, while sitting at the cafe typing into my broken mac screen my aunt and uncle drive by on their way to watch the races from Yellow Bluff and urge me to come along to watch one boat race itself. What the hell, why not. It’s a beautiful day.

To say the race was underwhelming would be an understatement. Again, I really want to be excited about the racing. Not to mention that I am someone who loves racing and watching racing! This was downright boring though. The highlight of the action for all fifteen people standing on the bluff was watching a black cormorant catch a fish and it’s repeated attempts of tossing the wiggly creature down it’s beak. I’m not kidding. As the AC72 was rounding the weather mark the majority of the cameras were focusing on this goofy little bird.

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Totally should have stuck with tweaked out AC45’s. The cup would have been totally rad with fifteen of these things battling it out.

I really hope that with the addition of one or two boats things will get at least a little more exciting. And I don’t mean to be a totally negative nancy here… they will get better. It’s just kind of a bummer to watch an event that could have been so awesome to watch and such a boost to the sport, flop.

On the upside, I think the decision whether to hang out in the bay and watch the racing or to sail up into the Delta for the Ephemerisle raft up event just got a lot easier!

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New Zealand and the Golden Gate.

Geoff