The World Comes to Our Backyard

The America’s Cup World Series, just sailed on San Diego Bay Nov. 12-20, attracted thousands of spectators from around the world to Southern California. Crowds watched on shore along the Embarcadero and on the water in San Diego Bay as many of the world’s top sailors — eight teams, from seven countries — competed in nine fast AC45 multihulls on an in-the-bay course.

For spectators, there was more up-close-and-personal racing action than most had ever seen. And it was an impressive sight. It proved, once again, that there are few better places on earth to hold a sailboat race.

San Diego, of course, is no stranger to America’s Cup racing. Cup races were held here in 1988, 1992 and 1995.
Oracle Racing skipper James Spithill, representing the San Francisco-based America’s Cup Defender, knows a lot about San Diego Bay. In fact, he is a part-time resident of San Diego.

“As a sailor, you want challenges, and to push yourself — and this bay has it all,” he said in a recent interview.

However, this race was not like previous events on San Diego Bay. The racing was unbelievably close to the spectators — “right off the piers (Broadway and Navy),” he explained. “The level (of competition) has risen. This is one-design racing, the boats are the same, and it really comes down to the best team.”

“The racecourse here deals you some tricky, shifty conditions,” added Terry Hutchinson, the skipper of Sweden’s Artemis Racing, about sailing on San Diego Bay. “So, you really need to sail consistently.”

Dean Barker of Emirates Team New Zealand was also enthusiastic about racing here, in a pre-race interview. “It’s great to come to San Diego … Racing right here in front of the city has its share of challenges, but I’m sure it’s going to be a great event.”

And great it was.

Spithill called it “a great show for the people watching. The people of San Diego know the Cup well, but this will be a re-education for them about the Cup. They’re used to watching boats being towed out, and that’s it. Now, the start is right off the USS Midway.”

The America’s Cup World Series Races in San Diego have raised the bar for future sailing events held here — and around the world. No longer can a glib television commentator say, “watching a sailboat race is about as exciting as watching grass grow.”

With a spectator-friendly racecourse, fast boats, “rock-star” crews and plenty of racing action, more events like this one could create a whole new fan base for competitive sailing.

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