Looking Toward 2012/2013

The news out of city government this week includes a few surprises when it comes to America’s Cup racing on San Francisco Bay. A lot of early thinking had to do with creating a box on the cityfront, but the proposed racecourse is a bay tour that crosses the shipping lanes to the Marin County shore on the north. Below is Page 9 of 37 of the Planning Department’s Notice of Preparation for an EIR. As usual, click to enlarge —

Let’s emphasize that this is preliminary. Got that? Preliminary. One of the subtexts of every conversation in America’s Cup Race Management is to create races that go for a broadcast-happy length. In the past I’ve heard 45 minutes; in this document I read 1-1.5 hours. Either figure assumes the ability to adjust the length of the course, something not addressed at all here. And yes, the cameras will love it when the boats go under the bridge, but I have a sneaking suspicion that over the course of two months of racing, there might be days when the race committee wouldn’t want to send the boats past the bridge. Locals well know that there are seabreeze days, especially during an ebb tide, when the waves in the Golden Gate Strait are big, steep, and treacherous. The thought of reaching a catamaran at speed through that stuff, then bearing away at a mark, is enough to get me all puckered up at just that, the mere thought.

(We covered this topic a while back when Larry Ellison described taking one of Cal Sailing Club’s Lido 14s beyond the bridge, back in his college days, and made very much that discovery. As he related it, “I promised that if God would just let me make it back under the bridge, safe in San Francisco Bay, I would never do this again.”)

Like so much else, no one really knows the capabilities and risks until boats are launched, races are sailed, and the new world of America’s Cup competition becomes a reality.

The Planning Department’s document shows a finish line at Pier 27, which will be the prime public interaction space, but it doesn’t show a start line. Do you like their weekend figure of 50,000 to 100,000 visitors a day to the America’s Cup Village?

The Planning Department’s Notice of Preparation is the opening step in the critical environmental review process. Its authors assume two World Series events on San Francisco Bay in the second half of 2012, while noting that there may be only one. (And I note that the boats will be the full-sized AC72 cats.)

There is a plan for barge-landing media helicopters for refueling, and the planners are thinking bleachers for 500-2000 on Alcatraz—for example—with many many more bleachers at Crissy Field, the Marina Green, and even at Cavallo Point, Sausalito, for races that would be grouped into 3-day or 4-day weekends.

Read the full Notice of Preparation.


While we’re still waiting for an official announcement that China Team will challenge for the 2013 America’s Cup, the team broke cover this week by sailing on the AC45 catamaran in Auckland. Considering the strong Asian population in San Francisco, a city with a Chinese-American mayor and a Chinese-American chairman of the Board of Supervisors, is there a fan base that awaits an awakening?

The Chinese government has been promoting sailing, and they’ve been investing in the sport. China has come along a bit from 2007, when China Team proved something less than a threat in the challenger eliminations in Valencia. And yes, they were a re-branded French team that carried on with a few Chinese and so many French you could call them L’Equipe Chinoise. There are two mystery entries cited by the America’s Cup Event Authority but not named, pending formal announcements. Team New Zealand also has been allowed to sail on the AC45 prototype.

Suns New Jerseys