Wind-filled sails call out to international trophy seekers at the America’s Cup.
On any given day, from the miles of shoreline in San Diego, boats fill the Pacific waters of picture-perfect harbors, dry docks and piers, gliding in and out of view while the sun slowly moves overhead and out to sea. In San Diego, nothing so effortlessly nuances the California dream like the nautical compass—one that points in the direction of somewhere far off the fading bluffs or brings a salty old sailor back home. Maritime treasures decorate almost every souvenir boutique in Seaport Village and the city boasts the largest United States Navy base on the West Coast. The sea is clearly in our blood.
For some, it’s a pastime—a recreational activity that captures the essence of our SoCal lifestyle, whether on the wind or from the comfort of a luxury yacht. For others, it’s a job. And for those who take a more aggressive approach, it’s a passionate quest for glory that requires dedication and commitment, a story with rich and international history.
A sailing competition since 1851, America’s Cup is a competition for the oldest active trophy in international sports. It is a race between two yacht clubs—a defender and a challenger—for stewardship of the cup. The event got its name when the America, a schooner from The New York Yacht Club, passed the royal yacht in the Isle of Wight. Queen Victoria famously asked one of her attendants to tell her who was in second place, to which he replied, “Your Majesty, there is no second.” Since then, countries have been vying for the only prize and the ensuing bragging rights. The San Diego Yacht Club was a part of this storied history, winning the cup from Australia in 1987 and holding it until 1995.
This year’s race takes place in San Francisco Bay, from Sept. 7 to 21, with BMW Oracle Racing of The Golden Gate Yacht Club facing one of the qualified competitors: Emirates Team New Zealand, Luna Rossa Challenge of Italy or Artemis Racing of Sweden. The 34th America’s Cup will be awarded to the team with the highest cumulative score from two seasons, in events that take place all over the world.
To determine a worthy challenger for the America’s Cup, the three teams are competing for the Louis Vuitton Cup, scheduled now through Aug. 30. The original regatta took place in Newport, R.I., in 1983. The winner of this debut event, Australia II, was the first challenger to ever take the trophy from the United States, which held the trophy for 130 years. As the war wages on, with new challengers and more at stake, the pressure rises and the crew gets hot.
In an excerpt from Julian Guthrie’s book, “The Billionaire and the Mechanic: How Larry Ellison and a Car Mechanic Teamed Up to Win Sailing’s Greatest Race, The America’s Cup,” Larry Ellison, founder of Oracle Team USA, describes this labor of love: “Fun? You think we’re here for fun? Do you think losing is fun? I don’t. This is professional sports, not a third-grade T-ball game. Is sailing fun? Yes, if you want to sail to Sausalito and sit and do a little fishing or sunbathing out with your family, that can be fun. If you’re sailing in the America’s Cup, if it’s your job, you are supposed to work very hard. We are here to win. Winning, that’s my idea of fun.”
Ellison’s team, along with his worthy rivals are anticipated to spend more than $100 million each on their boats, crew and facilities, with these catamarans costing an estimated $8 million each to build. This high-end, high-speed boat race is suiting up to go more mainstream, as Ellison attempts to make the event more attractive to television networks and aims to make the sport as popular as Formula One.
This high-end sporting event has a lot more to offer than just sailboats. The America’s Cup Pavilion is a 9,000-seat amphitheater built for the summer racing season, with 20 concerts planned, including family-friendly shows, community and comedy acts. With several food vendors and convenient sports bars, fans won’t miss a second of the action on large television screens.
Another great place to take in the race season is from The America’s Cup Super Yacht Program. Exclusive packages include priority berthing in the America’s Cup Super Yacht Village, flagged spectator locations along the racecourse with the live race feed broadcasted into each luxurious vessel. This is the VIP of VIP experiences for yacht club enthusiasts. This year, the cup will host a fleet of some 15 super-yachts in their Superyacht Regatta—ranging in size from 85 feet to 300 feet—scheduled for early September.
For the first time in history, the America’s Cup hosts the Red Bull Youth America’s Cup, opening its sails to young sailors for a chance to gain the experience of a lifetime and the opportunity to contribute to a cup team. This year, three homegrown sailors are representing San Diego as part of Team USA45 Racing—a team made up of nine sailors ranging in age from 19 to 24. Jake LaDow, Jake Reynolds and Nevin Snow—all 19-years-old—grew up in Point Loma and have been sailing together since they were very young. Together the three won the Governor’s Cup in 2011, an international junior match competition, and were brought up from junior sailing ranks to participate with other sailors from across the country in this year’s premier event.
As these exciting races build momentum and become a more popular spectator sport, the competition brings with it a prestige that is unique in the world of sporting events. It’s a passion that, for some, starts very early in life, like the youth competitors from San Diego who became familiar with the skills at the San Diego Yacht Club.
There’s no denying the love affair San Diego has maintained with boating throughout the years. The America’s Cup is an international recognition of something that is eternally in our veins.