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Top Sailors Racing in America's Cup Series in San Francisco


Top Sailors Racing in America's Cup Series in San Francisco

America's Cup defending champ Oracle Team USA is racing two boats, skippered by Jimmy Spithill and Russell Coutts, in the 2012-13 World Series in San Francisco and Italy.

Photo courtesy of San Francisco Travel Association. Copyright Gilles Martin-Raget.


The 2012-13 America’s Cup World Series, which launched in San Francisco in August, continues here on October 2-7, 2012, with breathtakingly close views of Oracle Team USA and many of the world’s best sailors racing along Marina Green.

With the tight maneuvering, overtaking and possible capsizing all happening between Marina Green and Alcatraz and between the Golden Gate Bridge and Aquatic Park, the race course in San Francisco is closer to shore than it has been in any other host city, America’s Cup officials say. A total of at least 150,000 people showed up at Marina Green for the August 21-26 debut round of the America’s Cup World Series (ACWS). Since the series’ second round coincides with the perennially popular Fleet Week (Oct. 4-7), be prepared for record crowds in the Marina district.


Based at Piers 30-32, 11 crews representing eight countries are racing in ACWS’ second phase (Sweden, Italy and the US are each sponsoring two boats): Artemis Racing Red and Artemis Racing White of Sweden; Luna Rossa Piranha and Luna Rossa Swordfish of Italy; Oracle Team USA Coutts and Oracle Team USA Spithill; Emirates Team New Zealand; the Energy Team from France; Team Korea; the China Team; and Great Britain’s J.P. Morgan BAR (Ben Ainslie Racing). The British crew is headed by one of its own, Ben Ainslie, who, with four gold medals and one silver, is the most decorated athlete in Olympic Games sailing.


The two Oracle crews are named after their skipper-helmsmen: Jimmy Spithill, who skippered Larry Ellison's BMW Oracle Racing to win the 2010 America's Cup; and Russell Coutts, who was the BMW Oracle Racing's captain. Coutts, 50, has been on four crews that have won the America's Cup since 1995.

Although Oracle Team USA is of course representing the US and is the defender of the America’s Cup, it is powered by Australians, New Zealanders and Dutchmen. Spithill is an Aussie; Coutts is from New Zealand. Of the 10 Oracle sailors racing in this ACWS second round, only one is American--tactician John Kostecki, who is a native of San Rafael.


Marina Boulevard at Baker Street
October 2-7, at 10 am-7 pm
Free admission

The best and closest spot from which to watch the racing is the bleachers set up on the peninsula near the Golden Gate Yacht Club. Bleacher seats range from $40-125, rising in price as the week progresses from Wednesday to the weekend.

Otherwise, just head to Marina Green. Little Marina Green, aka "America's Cup Village," is a hubbub with a huge screen broadcasting the races. Live race commentary, morning and dock-in shows and interviews with crew members are presented from a stage. There are interactive exhibits about the mechanics of sailing (try your hand at hoisting a sail) and the ocean environment, as well as stations stocked with America’s Cup merchandise, food and drink, including Champagne and Napa Valley wines.


The World Series includes two kinds of races: Match races, between two crews at a time, which last about 15 minutes each; and the free-for-all fleet races, in which all 11 boats try to muscle for space and speed without colliding or capsizing. Following practice on Tuesday (Oct. 2), match race qualifying is on Wednesday, and match and fleet races are scheduled for Thursday through Saturday. “Super Sunday” has only fleet racing.


What we commonly think of as “the America’s Cup” are the finals ending with the enormous and storied trophy. For the 34th America’s Cup, the finals are Sept. 7-22, 2013, in San Francisco. Leading up to them are the World Series (held in August and October 2012 in San Francisco, April 2013 in Venice, and May in Naples) and the Louis Vuitton Cup (July-Sept. 2013 in San Francisco).

The winner of the Louis Vuitton Cup races defending champ Oracle Team USA in the finals. The LV Cup contestants are teams from Italy, Sweden, New Zealand and Korea.


For the teams competing for the LV Cup, yes. Points they collect during the World Series give them a ranking advantage at the start of the LV Cup. And the more time they can spend on San Francisco Bay, the better.

For all of the sailors, the series is, at minimum, good practice. In the world of elite sailing, crew members often switch teams (when the World Series wraps up, British skipper Ben Ainslie is jumping ship to help the Oracle team, for instance).

And the boats in the ACWS are similar to (though shorter than) those in the 2013 LV Cup and finals. They are catamarans (two-hulled), and instead of the traditional mast and soft sails, they have ultra-tech wing sails that work on the same physics principles as airplane wings do.

In the ACWS, the crews sail identical AC45 boats (about 45 feet long) with identical wings. The AC45, operated by five sailors, has a 70.5 foot tall wingsail and can reach 30 knots per hour (35 mph).

In the Louis Vuitton Cup and in the cup finals in 2013, the teams trade up to 72-foot-long giants with wingsails taller than 131 feet, which they design and build on their own within certain parameters. Crews of 11 are predicted to push the AC72s to more than 40 knots (46 mph). Navigating these behemoths within the San Francisco race course boundaries will be one of the biggest difficulties.



Wednesday, Oct. 3 – Match racing qualifying at 4:05-6 pm.
Thursday, Oct. 4 – Match racing quarter-finals at 12:25-12:55 pm; fleet racing, 5:10-6:15 pm.
Friday, Oct. 5 - Match racing quarterfinals 4:05-4:35 pm; fleet racing 4:50-5:55 pm.
Saturday, Oct. 6 - Match racing semifinals 4:05-4:35 pm; fleet racing 4:50-5:55 pm; match racing finals 6:10-6:25 pm.
Sunday, Oct. 7 - Super Sunday fleet racing at 1:55-2:25 pm. Broadcast nationwide on NBC beginning at 1:30 pm.

First held in 1851, the America's Cup is the oldest continually contested championship in any sport. The race was named after its first winner, the US sailboat America, which prevailed over a slew of British yachts. For the next century, the US successfully fended off all challengers. In 1983, Australia beat the US. The US regained the cup in 1987, but then lost to New Zealand in 1995, which in turn lost to Switzerland in 2003. The US team, funded primarily by Larry Ellison, won the cup back in 2010.

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