Artemis Racing draws sold-out crowd to Alameda Theatre

Artemis Racing draws sold-out crowd to Alameda Theatre

Laura Casey

Video by Donna Eyestone.

Hundreds of America’s Cup racing fans packed the Alameda Theatre & Cineplex’s main historic theater Thursday night to learn more about the race series starting in July and to meet the members of Challenger of Record Artemis Racing, whose headquarters are in Alameda Point’s Hangar 12.

For an hour before the 6 p.m. presentation, members of the Artemis team circulated around the theater lobby signing autographs and posing for pictures with fans of the historic sailing race.

These are not scrawny sportsmen.

Team member and grinder Craig Monk’s biceps are the size of cantaloupes and his thighs are so muscular they could crack walnuts. The Olympic gold medal winner in single-handed sailing has been on the winning crew of two America’s Cup challenges, sailing for his native New Zealand. As a member of the Artemis team, Monk said he is looking forward to a “short, sharp and fast” game in San Francisco Bay, where the races are to be held.

“We know the Bay is going to be challenging and handling the elements along with the boat is going to be hard. We have spectator boats on one side and land on the other with wind in the middle. It’s not like we’re used to,” Monk said. The races are typically held in open sea.

Artemis Racing represents the Royal Swedish Yacht Club (KSSS), which was established in 1830 and is one of the five oldest clubs in the world. Torbjörn Törnqvist, a successful Swedish businessman and avid sailor, is founder of the team. Artemis is one of four teams that will be competing in the Cup - the others are the United States’ Oracle Racing, Emirates Team New Zealand and Luna Rossa Challenge of Italy.

The Artemis team has been in Alameda since last May sailing a couple AC45 catamarans while getting to know the water. The boat that will be competing in the race is an AC72 catamaran with a wingsail height of 131.2 feet, the equivalent of 30 stacked Mini Coopers. It has a sail area of 2,299.6 square feet, the size of three tennis courts, and can race at 35+ knots, or more than 40 miles per hour. It suffered significant damage in May during training which team members said they have been able to overcome.

Thirty engineers are working on the boat and when the entire racing and design team comes together in a few weeks, there will be 130 people living in Alameda related to Artemis Racing, team tactician Paul Cayard said.

Cayard and performance and design engineer Tom Schnackenberg led the majority of the hour-long talk after a welcome by Mayor Marie Gilmore and Assemblyman Rob Bonta.

Schnackenberg first spoke about the history of the race and design innovations since the Cup began in 1851. Today, the sails are made out of mostly carbon and the catamarans are considerably more lightweight than their single-hull counterparts.

“The pace of innovation has accelerated enormously in the last several years,” he said. “We’re in this brave new world. And it’s a big deal to win the Cup.”

Cayard explained highlights of the race, saying that the San Francisco Bay Area will be the “best venue that the America’s Cup has ever seen.” Broadcast of the Cup will feature top-of-the line informational graphics and the America’s Cup Village on the San Francisco waterfront will be home to public concerts, concessions and great views of the race.

He said the sailors’ large size and stature, evident in the theater lobby before the talk, is typical because of the high athleticism of the sport. The men typically enter into top heart rate zones while racing, which could be longer than 30 minutes. They work out with interval training - hard exertion for 15 minutes followed by rest and then another short push followed by rest.

“The goal is to keep the heart rate up and delay the onset of lactic acid (which relaxes the body and muscles),” he said.

Team member Monk said like all the Artemis Racing transplants now living in Alameda, he and his family are enjoying living and going to school in town. The team may be here through the end of the year; the City Council is set on Tuesday to consider extending their lease at the Point through December 31.

“I’ve got the son going to Edison Elementary and he’s taken up all the American sports,” Monk said. “We seem to have everything right here. We don’t even have to get off the Island.”

Alameda resident Geri Kaman was thrilled to meet Swedish team member and grinder Magnus Augustson at the event. She said her heart fluttered when she shook his meaty hand.

“This is the only sport I like,” she said. “It has everything about it. It has strategy, there are all the different elements, they have to fight against one another. It’s amazing. I am so proud they’re here in Alameda.”

The 55 days of races start July 4 with an opening ceremony. The Louis Vuitton Cup round robbins will be held from July 7 to August 4, followed by semifinals August 6-14. The Louis Vuitton Cup Finals will be held August 17-30 and the America’s Cup Match will be held from September 7-23.