The Maritime Report: America's Cup youth races begin

The Maritime Report: America's Cup youth races begin

Dave Bloch

Sweden and the Bay Area’s American Youth Sailing Force go head to head. Photos by Dave Bloch.

YOUTH AMERICA'S CUP IS AMAZING

This column comes out on Thursday, so the first Red Bull Youth America's Cup is now in the sports history books. As I write on Tuesday afternoon, having just watched the first three days of this regatta, I can honestly say this kind of racing is what we've been waiting for all along. The AC45s are fast and agile; the sailors (aged 19 to 24) are excited and skilled. The regatta is being blessed with perfect weather; it makes watching from anywhere a real pleasure.

The crowds over the weekend were quite large, and really friendly. It didn't matter what country people were from (and, from the languages spoken, they're from all over) - everybody cheered for every team. As has been happening since the America's Cup World Series, many of these folks have never watched sailboat races before, and I just kept hearing what a good time they were having. Coming back to Alameda on the ferry (and the Bay Bridge closing was giving lots of folks their first taste of that as well), there were still lots of happy people that had gone over to see the races and enjoyed themselves way more than they expected they would.

So who's going to win this eight-race regatta? In the first two days (four races total), the results of each race were all over the map, and the total points for nearly all the teams were very close. But today the two New Zealand teams were outstanding, and the "NZL Sailing Team with Emirates Team New Zealand" team is out front with 50 points; the next four teams are in the upper 30s. This is not a runaway for New Zealand though, especially when the last race carries double points.

It's been great! I hope these boats come back into the Bay again.

AND HOW ABOUT YOU?

You may be surprised to know that races happen around the Bay practically every week of the year. From quiet-water informal "beer can" races on the Oakland/Alameda Estuary to the 250-plus-boat Three Bridge Fiasco, you can often see some kind of race going on near our Island.

Those Estuary races are a very low-key way to see a race and learn a lot about what happens. Races happen nearly every Friday evening throughout the summer, sponsored by either Encinal or Island yacht clubs. Oakland Yacht Club holds their "Sweet 16" race series on Wednesday evenings. Ballena Bay Yacht Club's "Friday Night Griller" series has two more races, tomorrow and September 20. Stop by, and ask anyone how to watch the race. (Show up at the right time and you might end up helping to get them started; it takes several people to hold the flags, fire the gun, do the timing and watch the start line.)

FINALLY, THE CUP ITSELF

The America's Cup regatta - the real thing - finally begins this Saturday. Oracle Team USA will meet Emirates Team New Zealand in what - until about 3:00 p.m. Tuesday - was described as a "best of 17 races" event.

This was changed a bit when the America's Cup International Jury handed down their penalty to Oracle Racing for illegal adding five-pound weights inside the frames of their AC45 catamarans during the AC World Series last year. The problem was discovered as the boats were prepared for the Youth America's Cup, and Oracle "voluntarily withdrew retroactively" from the World Series regattas that were affected. None of the senior management or the skippers were involved or aware of the problem during those regattas, according to the Jury.

Besides paying a $250,000 fine - and three unnamed team members being barred from the regatta - Oracle will start the America's Cup series with a score of -2 points. That means that they will have to win 11 races, while ETNZ only has to win nine. If we came to a score of Oracle 9, ETNZ 8, then it would take up to two more races to decide the winner.

Will it be a close contest between these two teams? We'll get our first idea on Saturday!