America’s Cup pits U.S., New Zealand with San Francisco as backdrop

The 34th annual America’s Cup, the winner-takes-all sailing yacht race, begins Sept. 7 in San Francisco as the contest returns to the U.S. for the first time since 1995.

The City by the Bay, the eighth city to host the America’s Cup competition, has been busy in the run-up to the big race. Its Summer of Racing kicked off July 4 with an opening ceremony celebration. Racing started July 7 with the Louis Vuitton Cup, the challenger series that determines which team will face the defending Oracle Team U.S.A. in the America’s Cup finals, set to begin Sept. 7.

There is no second place in this competition. Two vessels face off in head-to-head races in the best-of-17 America’s Cup. The defending team faces the winner of the Louis Vuitton Cup.

Competing in the Louis Vuitton Cup this year were Artemis Racing of Sweden, Emirates Team New Zealand and Luna Rossa Challenge 2013 of Italy.

After the round-robin and semifinal rounds, top-seeded Emirates Team New Zealand beat Luna Rossa Challenge and will be the challenger against Oracle Team U.S.A.


The America’s Cup, first awarded in 1851, is among the oldest trophies in international sport. It was first awarded to a syndicate of New York businessmen who sailed to England for the World’s Fair and competed in a race around the Isle of Wight. The trophy was originally called the 100 Guinea (or Pound) Cup but was renamed America’s Cup after the schooner (the America) that won the race.

The trophy was taken back to New York and given to the New York Yacht Club through “Deed of Gift,” which designated the cup as a perpetual challenge cup for friendly competition between nations. This deed, although revised, still governs the sailing competition.

Australia was the first country to best the U.S., winning the cup in 1983 after snagging the first-ever Louis Vuitton Cup. The U.S. had successfully defended the trophy 24 times before this, and since then, only two other countries (New Zealand and Switzerland) have won the coveted “Auld Mug.”

This year the teams will be competing on AC72 catamarans, as chosen by the defending Oracle Team U.S.A. These lightweight yachts, created specifically for the 2013 America’s Cup, measure 72 feet long by 46 feet wide. This 13,000-pound vessel requires an 11-person crew and has a 2,798 square-foot wing sail that stands 131 feet tall.

The newly designed AC72 catamarans have the ability to hydrofoil, meaning when the boat reaches a certain speed, the hydrofoils generate enough lift for the two hulls to clear the water and glide just on the foils that are under the boat. This means reduced hull drag and increased speed. Spectators will be able to watch the boats “fly” during the races.

This also marks the first time the America’s Cup racing is inshore rather than offshore. The race course is within the confines of the San Francisco Bay instead of being three miles off-shore as it has been in the past, allowing spectators to see the race much more closely than before, so much so that sailors can hear the cheering crowd.

For those interested in experiencing the America’s Cup, Piers 27/29 along San Francisco’s Embarcadero have been transformed into America’s Cup Park for the summer. It is open daily through the end of the America’s Cup finals, free to the public, and hosts various events such as special pre-race shows and athlete interviews on race days.

The park houses the Louis Vuitton Cup store, the Puma Yard, yachts and exhibitions. Also within the Park is the America’s Cup Pavilion -- a 9,000-seat amphitheater that broadcasts the race on race days and hosts various concerts. The America’s Cup course’s finish line is at Piers 27/29.

Also along the waterfront is the America’s Cup Village at Marina Green. It’s open to the public and is free on race days. It’s divided into main sections -- the Marina Green and the Yacht Club Peninsula. Both sections have areas for paid seating with views of the starting line as well as the first turn of the race course. (The finish line is not visible from these seats, but live broadcasts are also displayed for the spectators.) Tickets are available online.

The Marina Green section also includes a “Fan Zone” with displays about sailing, the ocean and AC45 catamarans. The Village will host the Red Bull Youth America’s Cup starting Sunday.

Spectators can also view the races on the water or at other private venues in the area. Ticketing information is available online.

Info: America’s Cup