America's Cup: A Day at the Races

Categories: America's Cup
Vance Cardell
Goooooooo yachting! 
Sunday was about as glorious an afternoon as San Francisco ever hosted. The sun shone brightly and the weather was Northern California perfect. Beautiful people and their dogs were everywhere. That there was an America's Cup World Series race taking place was almost an auxiliary pleasure. 

But, indeed, large numbers of big, expensive boats were ripping around the bay, serving as worthy photographic backdrops for those beautiful people and their dogs. 

The qualities that led Cup organizers and their city cheerleaders to salivate over the possibilities of a San Francisco event were on full display. A small armada of huge ships sailed past the assembled throng at a distance of perhaps 35 yards; you could clearly see the sailors intensely scurrying about the ships. It was entertaining, exciting -- and free. If anyone doubted that the world's best sailors piloting fast and unstable boats in close proximity to the shore would be fun to watch -- well, you're wrong. 

On the other hand, those worried that the forthcoming America's Cup will be a costly debacle which will bleed San Francisco for millions likely still feel that way. 

First the fun part. 

The boats are big and fast and close. They whoosh by a crowd elated by their speed and proximity -- and then head off into the bay in a confusing morass of sails resembling, perhaps, a Star Wars battle scene (or this). 

The big masts turn, head back our way, come close again for about 15 or 20 seconds, and then head out to the deep once more. Finally, they return, for the big finish. In the event's final race, the Italian team eked out a win over the American team captained and crewed by capable foreigners and the Korean side with no Koreans. These boats actually appeared to collide in the waning moments of the race, and Oracle Team USA pulled in to take second (and won overall on points). 

Joe Eskenazi
Extremely fast and incredibly close
So, it was fun. And there were a lot of people out. But there weren't a lot of people in terms of massive crowds. It's hard to estimate the crowd size -- and no one we spoke with on scene would venture a guess -- but people were milling about from near Fort Mason all the way to Crissy Beach. Tens of thousands of spectators were there. But there were likely fewer folks than you'd have expected to show up for an ol' Candlestick Park day game against the Padres. Your humble narrator had no problem finding a pole on which to shackle his bike (impossible at any big music festival). It was easy to walk up and down the shore and find a place to stand. Cops biked along the waterfront without a problem. Those describing the area as "crowded" have likely never taken Muni during rush hour. 

Vance Cardell
So, no, San Francisco was not invaded by yachting fanatics. Even the charming foreign folks I spoke with -- elated at Italy's finish; downcast at France's underwhelming performance -- didn't come here from Italy or France. They were Berkeley students. 

Of course, next year, that may change. Big-time sailing enthusiasts may pay the big-time money to watch boats twice as big and twice as fast as those on display today. Of course, when you build boats bigger and faster, their price rises exponentially. Only three or four boats will be on the water in 2013, though they'll be twice as big and fast.

The glory of this weekend notwithstanding, it's been mostly stormy seas in recent years for the America's Cup Event Authority. The organization is on its third CEO and laid off a quarter of its workforce. Expectations -- and promises -- are being scaled back. One might show some trepidation at investing in this business. But if you're a San Franciscan, you already have.

City officials are still assuring the general public that the America's Cup Organizing Committee is on pace to raise its $32 million goal to offset city costs -- even though, for many months, it's been known that the projected public costs are nearly $52 million. Mayor Ed Lee is still making the laughable claim that the America's Cup will "create 8,000 jobs" -- even though, as we explained before, that could never be inferred from even the most jingoistic reports. Analysts estimated how much work would be created, not how many jobs; the only way 8,000 jobs will be created is if employers hire a new people to perform all of the additional labor. That's about as likely as winning the America's Cup in a paddleboat. 

In order to meet the wild 2013 crowd estimates tossed about by Lee and others, by the way, more than 10 times as many people will have to show up every day as were on hand Sunday.

We'll see if that happens. Those who do come to next year's event figure to see some exciting action out on the bay. Whether enough people will come -- and whether this will be a bottom-line benefit to the city -- remains as murky as Sunday was clear and bright. 

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mrericsir topcommenter

Funny how millionaires stop crying about socialism when it's financing their little boat race.


"a Candlestick Park day game against the Padres" - Uh, you do realize that the Giants haven't played at Candlestick since the end of the '99 season, right? 


The weekend was a big success for the Cup. Great weather and racing, with the crowd size being big enough to feel like it was a big event, but not too big that it was difficult to navigate around the AC Village.


Once again your writer decries the fact that American or Korean boats do not have crew from the country it sails for... San Francisco Giants, just how many of its players come from here? Hell, how many are even with us since we celebrated the World Series win? All Modern professional teams buy talent right off the shelf. Truth be told, the first real clubs were constantly 'stealing' talent from rivals. Babe Ruth 'The Sultan of Swat' fielded for Boston and New York and was born in Baltimore. Soon the San Francisco's 49ers move to San Jose retaining the name.   Much of the Money being spent by the City is going to clean up and dress up, and structurally improve things that should be done anyway. I can point to many areas that have seen marked improvement, that are now a pleasure to walk by or on. Grunge and neglect  have become 'patina'  for those fighting change and or taking pot shots at events that don't 'float their boat'. I can assure you, tourist who visit San Francisco know the difference... filth ranks no.1 on what they like least in our fair City. I for one and glad for the change, however it got here.                       We, San Francisco, are participating in a historic race that will long outlast its naysayers. For the first time since 1851, people can witness it in person from the shore. Prior, it was always held at sea to accommodate the deep keels of racing schooners.                 Everyone decries the cost of a ticket to modern day sport venues (except owners and players), yet to view this magnificent sailing spectacle... all one has to do is show up.



 @Fishchum "A Candlestick Park day game" implies a crowd of a certain size. Thanks for the history lesson,




 @SFWB Thanks for reading. As we've discussed in other comments sections, there's absolutely nothing wrong with professional sailing teams hiring professional sailors and scouring the globe to do so. It gets weird when "Team Korea" has no Koreans on it or "Team USA" has two Americans on the roster out of 21 spots.


But that's not really a big deal. The object is to assemble the best teams, as is always the case with professional sports.


Your points about the city's millions being invested to clean up "filth" is more problematic. That's not accurate. The $51.8 million figure is about city costs related to transit, policing, infrastructure, etc. It's not just about cleaning up the city to put on a happy face for the yachting crowd. That total doesn't include some $20 million in costs related to Port upgrades, or the scores of millions involved in building the America's Cup Village/Cruise Ship Terminal and the costly environmental mitigations tied to that project. 


Again, it's a safe bet that the America's Cup and San Francisco can team up to provide a stellar show. Whether doing so pencils out for the city is more tenuous.






 @joe.eskenazi Agreed, but you might want to reference the time gap. Something along the lines of "The crowd size reminded me of a Giants-Padres game years ago at Candlestick Park". 


 @joe.eskenazi Really... $52 million spent for Americas Cup you tout about, inferring  a loss, waste, scam or whatever... $300,000 plus on the San Francisco Police Chiefs annual salary (refer to your on story), which does not take into factor the pension spike that he will receive for the rest of his life (again, refer to your own written words). Bloated pay to City officials make the AC's costs pale. Your account lacks perspective on relative costs to benefit for local government. Transit and policing will be determined by attendance. Port upgrades will long survive once AC packs its duffel bags and goes home to 'whatever' country they come from. Environmental mitigations... don't make me laugh, to the rest of America, San Francisco is the punchline to every joke involving ridiculous notions that end up before the courts as we swing for the fences of political correctness in this City that used to know how. Now as we actively support  a historic and honored sporting event with world wide participation, to have voices raised in concern for costs is short sighted. I will remind you, sailors on those noble craft, in fact an entire crew, is paid less than a good short stop in the major leagues. Giants pitcher Barry Zito has been making 10's of millions, while his performance in the last few years would have gotten him tossed from the minors, meanwhile common folks pay through the nose for a seat, hot dog, drink or parking to pay the salary. They, Americas Cup participants, are not in it for the money, unlike the sporting events you champion. Helping it all come about is a noble endeavor on behalf of all San Francisco and the Bay Area.  As I say, you lack perspective in this discussion.


*Note I corrected my gross error, in my rush to judgment pushed the wrong numbers into the calculator, since they so neatly supported my argument... didn't give it a second thought. Still stand on the premise. Have a spell checker but not a math checker, maybe in the next  upgrade.

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