If you were San Francisco’s Mayor Lee you were driving - for the very first time - a 140 foot sailboat called America, a true replica of the boat that won the first America’s Cup event back in 1851. In fact, it was the very first time that Mayor Lee had been on a sailboat and he was clearly having a good time, even taking America through a jibe after driving her back under the Golden Gate Bridge in a stiff 20 plus knots. No sweat.
“I’m excited to see it from the racer’s point of view out on the water today and how we can visualize this race for the coming years,” Lee said, talking to a crowd of some 80 media and guests aboard America this afternoon prior to heading out to watch the AC45s fire it up on the Bay.
While there’s still no major sponsorship to speak of with the exception of Louis Vuitton, or at least none that’s been spoken of, Lee is positive it’ll happen.
“I’m very optimistic they (the organizers) will raise all the funds they need to hold the America’s Cup here in San Francisco…they’re even talking about repeating the event here…
All the stuff we want to hear, right?
Especially the bit about the event remaining in San Francisco which seemed a given from where I sat at the press conference held at the Golden Gate Yacht Club prior to this afternoon’s media sail. There’s no two ways about it, ORACLE Racing is one shiny, polished machine and they are on the fast track. It difficult to imagine that the challengers can get up to speed in just a few years with all that ORACLE has into it’s program this early on in the game, particularly coming off an experience like AC33 and the Big Cat.
Media were flown in from overseas as well as from across the US to attend today’s media shindig. Someone asked if it was typical to see this many media at a sailing press conference in San Francisco. Absolutely not.
Bay Area local Jonny Mosely, former Olympic freestyle skier MC’d the event and drew a pretty decent analogy from the skiing world - the transition in that sport which occurred when downhill skiing got intercepted by snowboarding - that helped the mostly non sailing journos in the room better understand what the hype is all about, the transition from monohull to multihull for the 34th America’s Cup.
For sailing media there wasn’t much new to report but it was great to hear it all again - LIVE - in San Francisco. The event was completely transparent, with ORACLE crew on hand to chat, a warm, casual affair. Nice.
Jimmy Spithill: We came back to the dock on Friday after our first time out on the Bay and you could see everyone just smiling and thinking ahead to the 72s. These boats (catamarans) are the complete opposite to boats that have been raced in the Cup in the past. Everyone is wearing a helmet for a reason, there’s a significant amount of risk, they’re very athletic, they’re probably one of the most athletic boats I’ve seen for the crew to sail. But there’s a huge reward for sailing them well - they’re the fastest boats out there at the moment. To get the best of these boats you have to push.
Russell Coutts: That’s the thing about this campaign, it’s about speed, like never before. The racing’s much closer to shore than ever before in the America’s Cup and that’s what I think is going to challenge the sailors - maneuvering these boats. The difference in the crews in being able to maneuver these boats and the skill in being able to maneuver them is going to be more telling than ever. If you screw up on a maneuver out there and the other guys in an AC72 are doing something like 50 mph and you’re stopped for even 10 seconds, you’re going to be a long way behind. That’s going to put a premium on crew work probably like it’s never been seen before in the Cup on these short course on San Francisco Bay.
* Speaking of screwing up a maneuver, RC did pitchpole his AC45 today after the media event whilst racing against Spithill’s boat. Grinder Shannon Falcone was examined by paramedics on the dock and taken for precautionary X-rays. Coutts' boat went head-over-heels and came to rest on its side.
John Kostecki (JK): "Being here in San Francisco gives us a chance to tune up for the first World Series event coming up in Cascais, Portugal - the conditions are similar, breezy and exciting racing. We’re looking forward to getting out here over the next 3-4 weeks and getting pushed around by the big breeze and try to get tuned up. We’re going to be running practice races out here everyday from 1:30 to 3:30pm. The other reason is to get to know San Francisco Bay. We have our team together, our design team working with our sailors, and we need to make important decisions on how our boat is going to be developed so hopefully we can defend the America’s Cup in 2013.”
Kurt Jordan: The AC45 is an opportunity for all the teams to get to the same place with the technology early on in the cycle. They’re a bit slower than the AC72 so they’re quite a cost effective package compared to the actual race boats so they’ll allow the teams to do a lot of sailing, training, testing for the next two seasons - 2011 and 2012 - at a much reduced cost for their campaigns.
Dirk Kramers: The first AC72 will probably be launched in about a year for now so between now and then there’ll be a lot of speculation and intrigue on your part and a lot of hard work on our part to see what these boats will be like. Imagine the AC45 spectacle but with rigs about twice as high and five times as powerful. We’re just really lucky we get to play with them - they’re really exciting boats.