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Thirsty for the Cup

America's Cup fans have flocked to San Francisco for the big event, and with no shortage of hot spots to enjoy a beverage, everyone has a favorite haunt.

September 16, 2013
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Sailing World

AC Party

San Francisco’s streets are teeming with AC spectators, and the business at AC bars and local watering holes is booming. Michelle Slade

There’s nothing like a cold beverage or two to calm ragged nerves before, during, and after watching the insanely close racing being dished up at the 34th America’s Cup in San Francisco, where tens of thousands of fans have descended upon America’s Cup Park. An atmosphere that’s nothing short of electric is pulsating at the Park on the San Francisco waterfront, with two distinct camps each desperately wanting the ol’ silver trophy.

Notorious party-goers, the Kiwis have hit San Francisco full force to support their team which leads the Cup with a massive six-point lead. Some have been here for weeks, even months, and others, even at this late stage, are still flying in just to remind Emirates Team New Zealand that the entire country is behind the Kiwi sailing team. If San Franciscans didn’t know what the Kiwi flag looked like before this past week, they sure do now.

The American fan base has been slower to adopt the same enthusiasm as the Kiwi contingent, in large part because the event just doesn’t hold the importance for the entire nation like it does for the Kiwis. Nonetheless, like their Kiwi counterparts, American fans and San Francisco locals are in every bar enjoying every minute of this grand shindig on San Francisco Bay. With the way the scoreboard is looking right now, they’d best make the most of it …

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Sunshine, insanely good sailboat racing, and cold beer, all the ingredients for a good party, are being dealt out in large quantities for thirsty bystanders. There’s no shortage of places to party it up, and a chilled flute of bubbly or a frosty cold beer can be found on almost every corner of the AC Park. Bright red purpose-renovated shipping containers serve as bars around the Park, while a covered pavilion to the rear of the Park hosts venues pouring the famed “Moa” Kiwi beer, Napa Valley wines featuring premium local wines, and Mumm Napa serving a selection of sparking wines. Drinks are pricey, but hey, not a whole lot different to what you’d cough up at any other sports game.

With some 50,000 visitors in and around AC Park and Village over the weekend, the overflow continue to make its way outside the Park to a couple of hot spots, notably the infamous Pier 23 right outside the Park. It’s been a popular place to spot ETNZ members enjoying a cold one post-racing as well as a regular haunt for AC staff. A few hundred yards north of the Park hidden behind the austere entrance to Pier 29 is the creative Kiwi pop-up, The Waiheke Island Yacht Club. Kiwi restaurateur Hayden McMillan has brought his dining know-how to the shores of San Francisco Bay in the form of a warehouse-style restaurant serving dishes described as “New Zealand sensibility in the San Francisco marketplace.”

It’s been packed since it opened on July 4 and rapidly become the gathering place of choice for Kiwis, although manager Tony Stewart says they’re attracting a cross section of clientele, it’s just that the Kiwis tend to be well, more vocal.

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“They just seem to come here in droves, especially in the last few days,” Stewart said. “It’s been incredibly busy. I knew it would be, but it’s intense, which is not something we expected.”

Flicka McGurrin’s been involved at Pier 23 since 1986, and with the exception of Fleet Week celebrations, which are always huge in San Francisco, she says the Cup has been unique because of the event’s longevity and the AC Park being right next door: “It’s been great, really great. Revenue is way up, and we’re busy all the time, the energy is great, and we’re having a lot of fun.”

Simon Towns, Managing Director of Mumm Napa [who also happens to be a Kiwi], reports that the bubbly business at the Mumm booth has been “fantastic”, not surprising as the lines have often been 40-deep to buy a stem of bubbles.

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“Obviously it’s built it up during the AC Finals,” Towns said. “Last Saturday we sold about 25,000 flutes, and it looks like this weekend is going to be just as good.”

In the hopeless quest for a less crowded bar farther south along the San Francisco waterfront, AC fans have discovered Coqueta, a relatively new Spanish Tapas bar and restaurant that’s also been packed with AC fans post-racing. An ex-pat Kiwi named Dave draped in a Kiwi flag was buying rounds of the largest gin and tonics I’ve ever seen served anywhere. I mean, really huge, fat glasses. Wow.

The big talk, of course, is where the teams and the fans will be celebrating when one team takes the Cup. Traditionally, the teams host separate parties at their respective bases. While there’s nothing special planned for the public, other than the bars that have served them well for the past few weeks, it’s expected that the action will remain down and around Pier 27.

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Stewart was in the throes of figuring out celebrations at the Waiheke Island Yacht Club on Sunday, and his best guest is that there’ll be something for everyone. “It’ll be a private/public thing …” Whatever that really means.

Likewise, Towns was also working on party plans for the big celebration. “They’re in progress,” he laughed. “Obviously down here at Pier 27 we’ll be partying, but wherever the party may be, we hope Mumm will not be far behind. It’s the perfect product to party with.”

Spoken like a winner.

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