Ted Olsson will cover Sweden’s sailing team, the official challenger for the America’s Cup, during this year and the next, in a series of articles about different aspects of the boat, its crew and the race. The America’s Cup will be held in San Francisco this summer (semifinals) and next (finals).

If horse racing is called the sport of kings, then world-class sail racing is the sport of billionaires. You must be wealthy to afford the fastest, most high-tech boats, man them with the world’s top sailing crews, captain them with the most experienced skipper and then be able to meet anywhere in the world to challenge the best in an established world series of races, concluding with a series of races a year apart, with the whole world watching.
And that’s just what we have in international sports’ oldest trophy event—the America’s Cup. Having won so many other battles he entered, Larry Ellison, CEO of Silicon Valley’s Oracle, teamed with BMW to buy into this wealthy race and won. As champion, he got to choose the weapons and the venue.
As commodore of the Golden Gate Yacht Club, Ellison made that his home berth, and he had big dreams—just as 20th century racing had continually improved technologically from the days of Lipton’s schooners, Ellison and many of the top sailors of the younger generation wanted to bring this sport into the 21st century with nautical technology and full broadcasting coverage.
He has accomplished that already in three transformative challenges to sailing.
First, the boats will use the latest technology to cover the race. Fans will be able to hear and see the boats both panoramically and personally. As with a bobsled or NASCAR driver, you’ll be able to see and hear the race from the very cockpit. This is sure to attract large crowds to watch all the matches, which will educate everyone about world-class sailing in the process, seeing nation against nation and all against nature.
Ellison's second breakthrough was selection of the venue. In all previous years, fans needed a yacht to watch the races because they were on an ocean. But what is needed to test such extreme talent are wind and waves, speed and skill ... so, Ellison chose San Francisco Bay. The course will be tight and fast between the San Francisco Bay Bridge and the Golden Gate Bridge on the San Francisco side of Alcatraz and Treasure islands. This means anyone on any of the hills lining the Bay can watch, and the Golden Gate Bridge is bound to be packed. Everyone will also be tuned in to radio, television and Internet coverage.
The third strategic choice, which will change sail racing forever, is the choice of weapon. Ellison chose trimarans with airfoils as sails. The seminfinals will be dangerous enough with 45-meter craft skimming the water; the finals, racing 72-meter long trimarans, will be incomparably thrilling with the danger magnified by magnitudes. These boats will be traveling at well over 50 mph, and should they collide or capsize (as some have already done in practice), crew could catapult into the water from more than 50 feet high.
But the excitement is only the beginning. The challenger of record for this 34th racing of the America’s Cup World Series is the Artemis Racing team of the Royal Swedish Yacht Club (Kungliga Svenska Segelsällskapet—“Royal Swedish Sailing Society”), the second oldest yacht club in Europe after Britain’s club. The Artemis boats and team are owned by Torbjörn Tornqvist. Paul Cayard joined the team in 2009 as CEO and skipper.
Cayard is one of the world’s most accomplished yachtsmen. From his Facebook page we learn that Cayard is “a seven-time world champion, a five-time America’s Cup veteran and a two-time Olympian. The Star World Championship in 1988 is his most treasured prize. Cayard’s accolades include election to the Sailing World Hall of Fame in 2002 and Rolex Yachtsman of the Year in 1998. … He was the first American skipper to win the Whitbread Round the World Race in 1998 on EF Language. In 2005-06 Paul skippered the Disney entry, Pirates of the Caribbean, in the Volvo Ocean Race, winning the final leg into Gothenberg and placing a commanding second overall.”
But isn’t the champion assured the home advantage by choosing San Francisco Bay as his venue? Hardly. Cayard was born in San Francisco on May 19, 1959 and began sailing the Bay at age 8. While going to school and graduating from CSU San Francisco, he won numerous awards there—so he’s an old-hand at the winds and waves on the Bay. And if that wasn’t enough, among his three yacht club memberships he counts the prestigious St. Francis Yacht Club (home for his Whitbread trophy) and the San Francisco Yacht Club. He is chairman of the World Sailing Team Association and skipper of the Louis Vuitton Trophy team.
Cayard can’t rely on his knowledge of the Bay, though, to keep his skills honed; he is sailing or managing his team around the world for more than 200 days of the year.

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You’ll learn more about Cayard, the Artemis team and the America’s Cup challenge in my next articles. Meanwhile Cayard will be the speaker at SACC-SF/SV’s event on Wednesday, May 23. SACC is his local partner; so, to learn more about our Swedish challenger and to root on our team, be sure to join SACC San Francisco/Silicon Valley

By Ted Olsson