In recent hearings before the Board of Supervisors, questions have been raised regarding the upcoming America’s Cup finances and the City’s commitment to see the event through. But even with questions swirling around the event this summer, teams continue to prepare for their last big push to defend or win the world’s oldest sporting trophy.
Many around the bay have had the thrill of watching Oracle Team USA 17 or Artemis Racing’s AC72 flying around the Bay as they make final preparations for the America’s Cup in July. They are pretty hard to miss when they are training, visible from across the bay with their 131-foot-tall wing sails and a flotilla of boats kicking up huge wakes as they throttle up to keep pace while the big cats slice effortlessly through the water on their knife edge foil.
The AC45s have been out as well with training sessions for the Red Bull Youth America’s Cup teams getting in training and invaluable lessons from their supporting teams. As practice for the AC72s, teams are also out with AC45s modified with foils so they too can fly. As these already fast boats lift out of the water on their foils, they accelerate 5 to 10 knots on their downwind runs. Of course this maneuver is the most difficult and poses the biggest risk, as team Oracle already found out last year.
But this month most teams are setting their sights on Naples, Italy, where the final round of the 2012-2013 AC World Series will be held. Nine teams will be competing, with Oracle Team USA Spithill holding a substantial but not insurmountable lead over second place Luna Rossa Piranha, which will be sure to get another huge turnout of support. The competition will also be heating up with double Olympic gold medalists in the Tornado catamaran class Roman Hagara and Hans-Peter Steinacher of Austria joining in under the U.S. team flag. And don’t forget Jimmy Spithill’s teammate/competitor for the helm of Oracle’s AC72, Sir Ben Ainslie, is right in the hunt just a few points behind Luna Rossa. The series runs April 16 through April 21, and can be watched on the web with the TV coverage schedule still to be announced.
While the teams battle it out in Italy, the battle over the bucks here will certainly continue, with the main opponent Supervisor John Avalos angry over the shortfall of fundraising to put on the event that may now put the City on the hook for some of the cost. Though there is no question that the Cup will bring in millions of added money to the city, if some of that profit is used to pay off expenses, it is money Avalos says could have gone “to parks, streets, and neighborhoods.”
Certainly as the overall event has shrunk due to the fewer entries, so too has the cost of hosting the event been reduced. Though it might not be the economic windfall that was hoped for, our own District 2 Supervisor Mark Farrell takes a more optimistic view. “The bottom line is this is going to be a great event at zero cost to the City,” he said. “We’re talking about [an estimated] $900 million in economic activity and [a potential] 6,500 jobs. A lot of cities would pay a lot for that. World-class cities put on world-class events, and I think our city is going to shine.”
Beyond showcasing San Francisco for nearly three months during one of the largest and most prestigious sporting events in the world, the City also stands to gain a legacy of improvements that will have even longer lasting impacts. Muni, AC and Golden Gate Transit are all working together to create a regional plan for transportation. The new cruise ship terminal got a jump-start that speeded construction to serve as the Visitor’s Center and media base during the America’s Cup. And a new generation of sailors to carry on the spirit of the America’s Cup will race for the first time here on San Francisco Bay in the Red Bull Youth series. As Supervisor Farrell said, our city is going to shine, and for a long time to come.