Sunday, October 09, 2011

Finally, a real race track

Let's be honest. Would you want the America's Cup if someone gave it to you? What a pain in the butt! Thank goodness Larry Ellison has a ton of money to take on the task of shining up this tarnished trophy.

You remember the legal delay after the 32nd Match. How about the obscene money spent on the farcical 2010 mis-match? Not the best of times. And with the 34th America's Cup not until 2013, the event was on a road to nowhere.

To create interest again, the America's Cup World Series was invented. But again, let's be honest. It's been a work in progress. The first event in Portugal wilted under the bright lights. And in the UK, only the 'crash & burn' angle rescued the show. If this was Broadway, it'd likely be a very short run.

What's been missing is a legitimate sailing venue. Thus far it's solely been about entertainment, and the actors have been performing on a sound stage. But now, with the circuit coming to San Diego (Nov. 12-20), the racers will finally get a chance to race their boats on a tested track.

And we're not talking about the track that hosted the Cup in 1988, 1992, and 1995. No, the AC45s will be competing on the same course as... the... annual... San Diego Bay Beer Can Series. Inside the bay, baby! And they're lucky that four-time America's Cup winner Dennis Conner has retired. Nobody went undefeated this past summer like DC did with his Farr 60 'Stars & Stripes'.

And the organizers of the San Diego event are for real too. Sailing Events Association San Diego is chaired by Chuck Nichols. Chuck has been Commodore of the world famous San Diego Yacht Club and was President of both the 1995 America’s Cup and the 1998 Super Bowl. And Chuck is bullish on the venue too.

"We have a natural amphitheater," said Nichols. "We have developed areas around the bay that will facilitate on-land spectating. We have Harbor Island with all the open space. We have Coronado Island, which we hope to have available with the Navy's cooperation. And then we have the city front area. All of this is close enough to be able to enjoy the races from shore.

"With the cooperation of the Navy and Coast Guard, we can push the sailing area to the edges. And the race management is really flexible on course layout. This isn't like the old America's Cup where everything is set in concrete. While we know the footprint of the sailing area, how the course gets set within that area will depend on the wind direction so that it provides for both good racing and shoreside viewing."

While most events are bleeders, Nichols sees this one in the black. "A study by a local university estimates that the event will induce $20 million in spending. And I think that's light. They were quite conservative in their analysis. Between the sponsors, and each team's sailors and staff, I think the estimate is 20,000 room nights. And then you have the people coming to watch. Hotels, restaurants, retail stores, rental cars, airport fees... people stay overnight and it all adds up."

With a proven race track and veteran administrators, the only other significant variable is the weather. While San Diego is known for its mild climate, it's also known that winds from November to March are hit or miss depending on storms. But there is reason for optimism, as rain has come early to California. And 'The Old Farmer's Almanac' has good news too. Their prediction for the event week is 'Rain and t-storms, then sunny, cool.' Sounds like a hit!

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At 10:25 AM, Blogger jim said...

Great Story!
L:ooking forward to a great event.

At 3:25 AM, Anonymous sailing games said...

Big event organised by great professionals raising huge anticipation,land spectators will be treated to a rare show. Could you please sensitize us more on participation.

At 12:09 AM, Anonymous Jack Griffin said...

I expect the San Diego ACWS to be a very good event. But... why the need to criticize the events in Cascais and Plymouth? What is the basis for saying the Cascais event "wilted under the bright lights?" Were you there? I was. I didn't notice any wilting going on. How about Plymouth? Were you there to talk with the folks on the Hoe? The ones who drove miles and brought binoculars, telephoto lenses and good sailing knowledge? They seemed pretty happy to me, even when no one was capsizing.

I don't get it? Why does the author feel the need to criticize? Can't you just tell us the good news about San Diego?


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