America’s Cup in
San Francisco may
not be all it could be
Larry Ellison’s Oracle Team USA AC 72, skippered by James Spithill and Ben Ainslie, is seen capsized in the San Franciso Bay after a testing session on Oct. 16, 2012. Click image to enlarge.
Photographer: Guilain Grenier
WITH THE FINALS of the America’s Cup set to begin in less than five weeks – on Sept. 7 – uncertainty surrounds the world’s premier sailing race, being held for the first time in San Francisco.
One crew man was killed in May when the craft of one of the four competitors, Artemis Sailing, tipped over in San Francisco Bay. Last October, the Team Oracle craft, owned by cup holder Larry Ellison, also tipped over, but no one was injured.
The City/County of San Francisco – or, more correctly – the taxpayers have invested north of $100 million in the event. If it flops, they will be on the hook – and so will many others.
Despite the uncertainty, one has to wonder whether, with only four competitors, this is a race at all.
IN A REMARKABLE, IN-DEPTH LOOK at the challenges facing this year’s participants, Warren St. John of The New York Times Magazine listed them all in A Sea Change for the America’s Cup published Sunday.
“But after winning the last cup in Valencia, Spain, in 2010, Larry Ellison, the billionaire software mogul and the owner of Oracle Team USA, pushed for changes to try to make things more exciting and spectator-friendly,” St. John wrote.
But things didn’t quite work out that way.
The official web site of the America’s Cup 2013 edition. Click image to enlarge.
“Ellison and his team also got the competition to accept a new boat design that features 131-foot-tall wing sails atop 72-foot-long hydroplaning catamarans. These yachts, called AC72s, now travel nearly four times as fast as the boats of old — and for sustained bursts they can move more than twice as fast as even the multihulls that competed in 2010.”
Is this a race for flying boats?
“The boats, the thinking goes, are too dangerous for all but seasoned crews,” St. John wrote, omitting that it was a seasoned crewmember who died in May.
NOT ONLY IS THE DANGER of the craft a concern, but the uncertainty surrounding the entire event has called into question whether it can, at this late stage, succeed.
In a news release dated July 29, Tickets to go on sale for Louis Vuitton Cup Semi Final beginning Tuesday race organizers concede it was just a few days prior that Team Artemis confirmed it was in the race.
“The Semi Final pits Italy’s Luna Rossa Challenge against Sweden’s resurgent Artemis Racing in a best-of-seven format beginning Aug. 6,” officials say.
“The release of additional tickets was made possible by Sunday’s (July 28) confirmation that Artemis Racing was targeting a return to racing for the Semi Final.”
A map of the finals, set to begin Sept. 7 in San Francisco Bay. I will not be there. Click image to enlarge.
And, in the same news release, we hear of another competitor having trouble.
“In electing to advance directly to the Louis Vuitton Cup Final, Emirates Team New Zealand also confirmed it would put its boat into the shed for modifications immediately, meaning the team will not race Tuesday’s match against Artemis Racing,” according to the release.
The America’s Cup 2013 edition has been bedeviled with problems. Many blame Ellison personally, saying his ego got away with him.
The NYT’s St. John sums it up neatly.
“Getting spectators to embrace the souped-up sport has not been without challenges, however,” he wrote on Sunday. “Organizers were expecting as many as 12 teams to vie for the opportunity to take on Oracle Team USA in September, before racing began in July to determine the finalist.
“But the cost of an America’s Cup campaign — which can creep as high as $100 million for the expensive boats and more than three years of salaries for crew and support staff — deterred potential entrants, and only three challengers showed up.”
I am disappointed to be missing the opportunity of a lifetime to see a world famous event in a sport about which I am passionate.
But, I will be elsewhere Sept. 7. Buying a ticket amidst all this uncertainty is more risky than the stock market. Unless, of course, Mr. Ellison is willing to personally “sponsor” my visit. Why not? He’s spent $100 million or more so far, and that’s just chump change for the world’s second richest man.
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