The Maritime Report: Off to the races!

The Maritime Report: Off to the races!

Dave Bloch

Photos by Dave Bloch.

WATCHING THE RACES AND THE "RACES"

The Louis Vuitton Cup, also known as the America's Cup Challenger Series, is actually underway. As you've heard, the 15 round robin races pitting New Zealand, Italy and Sweden against each other shrunk to five races because Sweden's Artemis Racing, which like Italy is based at Alameda Point, is still building their boat after the first one was destroyed in the May accident. (More on that in the next item.)

But the other two teams, Luna Rossa Italy and Emirates Team New Zealand (ETNZ) are still racing. When the schedule calls for those two teams, then they race each other. If it calls for one of them and Artemis, then they go out alone. That may seem silly, but realize that their scheduled race gives them practice on the entire course with all of the marks, security and technology that would be there if both boats were out. (This is not like a stadium sport where you have the field all to yourself; outside of these scheduled times they have to share the Bay with all the rest of us, so they can't do these flat-out 40-knot straightaway downwind sails.) The practice time is priceless, and it is the experience that Artemis will NOT have when they enter the LV semifinals in early August.

I have now watched two races and can report back. My first was from out on the end of Piers 27/29, the "America's Cup Park." From here you get the audio from the announcers, and a view of the eastern quarter or so of the race course (you see to just a bit west of Alcatraz). The big pull for viewing from here is the finish line - the boats pass at full speed very, VERY close to you. They then come back around slowly for a victory wave; that's pretty special. The other nice thing about the park is that there is lots more to do; the race itself can be just an hour of a full day of fun activities, especially if you have kids.

That first race was a real race - both ETNZ and Luna Rossa were on the course. ETNZ won this one from the start line; they got across first and extended their lead out to more than five minutes. To get an idea how much time that is, ETNZ crossed the finish line while Luna Rossa was still sailing past Alcatraz. It was not a good day for the Italian team.

Getting to the park is easy; take BART to the Embarcadero station or the ferry to either the Ferry Building or Pier 41. (Not every ferry goes to Pier 41, but it's a bit shorter walk to the AC Park from there.) You can ride the historic MUNI F-trolleys the rest of the way to the park instead of walking if you prefer.

I watched my second race on Sunday from Marina Green (the "America's Cup Village"), with only New Zealand out there. They did their preparations right out front of the Green, giving very good views of the boat and the sailors. Just before 12:15 they sailed out to the starting area and they were headed right for us as the gun went off. The boats came very close to the rocks of "the spit" where St. Francis and Golden Gate yacht clubs are, and then made a hard left turn to shoot right past us on the Green.

From our vantage point we could see them all the way down to the far marks, although some really good binoculars would be a big help. Just off to our right, though, a big Jumbotron video screen let us watch those distant parts of the race in closeup. The boat raced back towards us and passed a few hundred yards out (not as close as the first time) and then out of sight beyond the spit to the western marks. They turned, came back and passed us again, and headed east for their last turn to the finish line.

So, in this area you've got some choices. Being where we were on the shore was not as close as out on the spit, and we could not see the western mark. However, we could see the giant video screen and hear the announcers, which gave us information on what was happening. (There would be a lot more to hear if there were two boats in a close race!) You can instead choose to walk around the west end of the marina and out on the spit where you can stand on the road or sit on the rocks (be careful!). This is the absolute closest you can get to the action (especially the awesome Turn 1) and you'll see the entire length of the course until the racers' last sprint south to Pier 27. BUT you're isolated out there - no video, no announcers (unless you're very close to the yacht club) and no Porta-Potty.

The Green is also harder to get to, although MUNI now is running a shuttle between the two venues. You may get lucky with parking around here, though. If not the street, there are a couple of garages a few blocks south.

Other tips:

Bring clothing! Remember when you leave our warm, sunny Alameda that it may be cold and windy over there! Don't look like a tourist in your T-shirt and shorts. Be a Bay Area Local and bring layers. Remember a hat; it really cuts the glare even if it’s cloudy.

Bring water! Both venues have very sensible and ecological free filtered-water refilling stations. There is NO bottled water being sold at either venue.

Bring food! The concession food is at stadium prices, so pack a sandwich.

Bring binoculars, and the best camera you've got! There are a couple of photos with this article so you can see what I was able to get from Pier 27 with my Panasonic camera and Marina Green with my phone.

The next real two-boat race is THIS SUNDAY, July 21 starting at 12:15. It's a good time to get out and experience this in person while crowds are still light, so pick your venue and enjoy.

ARTEMIS RACING UPDATE

This statement was released by Artemis Racing late Tuesday afternoon:

“Over the weekend the Artemis Racing Team completed comprehensive structural testing of its second AC72. This significant milestone represents the culmination of around the clock work of two months by our designers, engineers and shore team. This week will be all about completing the assembly and getting the yacht in the water. The mood in the shed is one of excitement in anticipation of being able to go sailing in a matter of days. Artemis Racing is eagerly looking forward to getting back out on the water and joining the competition."

ONE LAST NOTE

The AC management announced this week that the "one-boat races" will no longer be streamed or broadcast live on YouTube and NBC's Cozi cable network. They will continue to make these available afterwards on their YouTube channel http://www.youtube.com/americascup.