San Diego Gears Up for the Cup
San Diego Gears Up for the Cup
With the America's Cup World Series coming to San Diego later this month, racers and organizers fill us in on some changes afoot.
Whereas three previous America's Cup events held in San Diego took place miles offshore, the World Series racing will take place in the confines of the harbor. For those familiar with the venue, the racing area is similar to that used for the RC 44 event earlier this year, with most activity wedged between downtown, Harbor Island, and the back of Coronado Island.
Murray anticipates 8 to 14 knots of wind from the west and southwest, but I'm guessing we'll see less than that. Competitors can expect a tight course—but no tighter to the courses set in Plymouth, says Murray—that’ll run up from a start near the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Midway, up around Harbor Island, then back down past the Midway to northwest of the Embarcadero Marina Park North, which will be the bottom mark in normal conditions, finishing back up by the Midway.
The base of race operations is located next to the Midway, which is now a naval aviation museum, on Navy Pier. Event hospitality will set up on the deck of the old aircraft carrier, which should provide quite the viewing platform if you’re lucky enough to catch an invite. Public spectating will be great from the AC Village at Harbor Drive and Broadway Pier, with views to the start and finish lines just off Navy and Broadway Piers.
Overall, the San Diego event will resemble recent stages in Cascais, Portugal, and Plymouth, England. The format will be slightly different, with just three seeding races held on Nov. 16, as opposed to the six raced in Plymouth. The match racing will unfold over three days instead of two, beginning Nov. 17.
“We found in Plymouth that the days were pretty long in quite strong breeze and long hours,” Murray says. “We don’t have the luxury of that time in San Diego, with the days getting shorter. Our hours of operation will be between 1 and 4 p.m., so instead of getting eight or nine races in a day, we’re aiming for six or seven. As always, we’ll be trying to start on time and finish on time.”
Murray’s also trying to add in a few more speed trials, even if speeds wont be as high as in Plymouth. Still, fans are loving this new form of short course racing. “You could use analogies to drag racing or the short ovals in NASCAR," says Murray. "It's a very simplified form of sailing that actually demands the pure ingredient of what we do, which is finding the speed over a short period of time.”
America’s Cup Race Management’s team of boatbuilders is in San Diego installing replacement parts that were made in New Zealand and shipped to San Diego, so teams can start training as soon as possible.
One team that’s working around the clock is Artemis Racing. The team's AC45 sustained a ton of damage in the Plymouth collision with GreenComm. Artemis skipper Terry Hutchinson says that his team hasn’t done much training since, as they’ve been too busy fixing the boat. Their spare hull arrived mid-October, so they have a lot of work to do in a short time, including fixing their wing sail that was damaged when a crew member fell through it during the Plymouth capsize. “The guys have been flat-out getting the spare hull repaired," he says. "We had some damage to our port hull as well to take care of."
The San Diego event will incorporate a few changes on the race management side of things, especially when it comes to dealing with crashes and damaged boats. Murray says they’ve learned a lot about how to manage those situations, from righting the boats to keeping everything safe.
New lights installed on the boats should make the umpiring clearer and more understandable, telling competitors and spectators when a team is in or out of a zone, when they’re approaching boundaries, and when they’re in penalty situations. “We’re clarifying those rules, and this time around you’ll see bow lights when they’re in and out of the zone, which is for the competitors,” Murray explained. “You’ll also see a big flashing dome on the back of the boat, which will indicate a protest.”
This information flow helps the sailors on the water and lets commentators in the broadcast booth make the racing less complicated for television audiences. But Hutchinson thinks the electronic umpiring is still somewhat of a struggle at times. His team fell victim in Plymouth to a situation where they called a green flag but were denied the foul on the water, an incident that affected the outcome of the race. The next day, during the morning review session, the umpires overturned their decision in Artemis’ favor. “It didn’t really matter how the situation evolved or developed, because the umpires were always going to see it a little bit differently than how you saw it on the boat,” Hutchinson says. “That’s what you’re always trying to understand—how they’re going to see it, not necessarily how you saw it. The difficult part is now it happens so much quicker, it’s hard really for both sides to keep up.”
But its all part of the learning process, and Hutchinson has his team focusing on big-picture stuff for San Diego with an eye toward scaling up to the AC72. “We’re rotating as many people as possible through the program, which is great," he says. "If there’s one thing that the 45 is good for, it’s that. It does expose our sailing team to high-paced, high-action sailing. The courses and the type of racing that we’re doing is a micro of what we’ll be doing on the 72. You definitely get an appreciation for how quick and fast everything happens.”