Let us briefly update you on the competition but then turn our attention to a delightful exhibit occasioned by the America’s Cup in San Francisco this summer.

A contentious week
The contention for the America’s Cup has already begun, although the races don’t begin until July 5. It’s not surprising that when money and national prestige are at stake, the genteel image is set aside. This is precisely why more than a decade ago an independent Regatta Director (RD Iain Murray), America’s Cup Event Authority (ACEA and its CEO Stephen Barclay) and race management (ACRM) were established.
With a significant difference among the teams in racing on foils, the apparent partnership between two of the four teams (New Zealand and Italy) and their frequently stated discontent with the current challenge requirements, and the complication created with the death of the Swedish team’s sailor and the destruction of their boat, the racing schedule has been modified (see http://noticeboard.americascup.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/Schedule-70613.pdf).
Some ticket sales have been refunded, boats are being evaluated for expanded safety margins, and personal safety requirements for crews are being enhanced.
Murray has earned his salary trying to keep the competitors focused on an equitable race resulting from current circumstances to determine the holder of the trophy. He required that the competitors provide ACRM with data on the structural integrity of the boats, maintenance and dynamic measurements from sailing—data which would be evaluated by the director and his appointed experts.
Early this month, New Zealand’s skipper Grant Dalton accused the Swedes of delaying the competition due to the fatal accident and poor design. He and partner Italy proposed advancing the schedule to select the single challenger. Since the obvious purpose of the proposal was not to improve the race but rather halve their competition, Paul Cayard for the Challenger of Record, Artemis, set the record straight, concluding that “Dalton’s proposals benefit no team but his own, and his public insults are out of line and unsportsmanlike.”
To clarify the matter the RD asked the New Zealand national newspaper, the Herald, to correct its account for accuracy, which they subsequently rejected, further inflaming the issue by accusing the director for siding with Artemis. His objective correction posited facts against their opinions. He stated, “All four teams failed to reach consensus on any of each other’s proposals. No one team blocked the outcome.”
Consequently it was best for the competition to stick with the original racing schedule, repeatedly endorsed by New Zealand. “To understand why Artemis Racing was not in favor of the Emirates Team New Zealand and Italy’s Luna Rossa proposal, one only has to understand that it dropped the Louis Vuitton semi-finals and moved the elimination races forward to July rather than August. This was clearly unfair as it meant that if Artemis Racing wasn’t ready to race (which they had said they weren’t) it would guarantee their elimination,” he concluded.
To settle the dispute, the RD convened the impartial America’s Cup Jury of international experts to assess the competitors’ complaints and decide how best to continue the challenge to determine the winner.

Built for speed
Early this June, in celebration of The America’s Cup competition, the California Academy of Sciences opened a new exhibit, “Built for Speed,” featuring the ocean’s fastest animals and swiftest boats.
On display through September 29, the exhibit encourages visitors to take action to preserve the oceans. America’s Cup and CalAcademy share ocean sustainability as part of their respective missions. http://www.calacademy.org/built-for-speed/

America’s Cup boats
Suspended from the ceiling hangs Oracle’s 2012 3,086-pound AC45, the platform and the wing. At floor level are scale models of the AC45 and AC72 with descriptions of the compositions of both boats, the history of the contest, and a video showing the Oracle boat in action, concluding with it foiling. http://www.americascup.com/en/news/3/news/15614/built-for-speed-at-the-california-academy-of-sciences

Evolution’s adaptations
Inside the piazza one learns of the speediest marine animals. These animals are all fast and long-distance ocean champions. But fish don’t hold the monopoly on speedy travel—the spineless squid darts through the water with a fascinating jet propulsion system. A preserved, jumbo-sized Humboldt squid specimen allows visitors to examine its adaptations.

While the spineless squid’s method of jet propulsion can accelerate it to 15mph, it is the fish that are the real speed champs. The Indo-Pacific Sailfish is faster than the AC boats reaching close to 70mph in short bursts. But the sail of the fish and the wing of the boat are not analogous, for the wing propels the boat, while the fish retracts its sail into a groove in its body to be streamlined when racing in the ocean. The sail seems to be used as a radiator, to cool the body after racing. The tapered body, the crescent tail, even the bill are all streamlined for speed. Like cowboys, a posse of them herd schools of small fish into a fish ball and then each takes turns with their sword culling a single fish out of the blurred ball, where, isolated, that fish can be quickly eaten.

The Yellowfin Tuna is the second fastest fish at 48mph in short bursts. All fish are cold-blooded, so they typically are the ambient temperature of the water; however, the advantage of mammals and all warm-blooded animals, is that warm muscles are much faster. The tuna, like the shark, has independently evolved recirculating warm blood back through its muscles to heat them. Piston-like tail muscles allow them to keep their bodies straight while powerfully thrashing their tails in fast pursuit. Its torpedo body and large dorsal fin slice the water, analogous to the boat’s keel. Unique arcing paired dorsal and anal fins, together with finlets and a caudal keel all provide stability.

The shark at 31mph burst speeds is a bullet aimed at large prey from below. The weight of its very large, oily liver would sink it, but balanced on outspread pectoral fins ocean sharks must leisurely swim continuously just to breathe. Its caudal keel ridge provide stability; sandpaper-toothed skin prevents drag. The ominous dorsal fin is a stabilizing keel. Unlike most fish, its skeleton is cartilage rather than bone, with jaws of replaceable teeth.

The fastest marine mammal can swim 34mph. Its heavy and large, smooth blubber-filled torpedo-shaped body allows it to swim in icy waters and range widely. While fish have many fins, the orca has an analogous prominent dorsal keel. However, its forward fins have evolved from its ancestor’s forelimbs, as can be seen from its skeleton: from shoulder to fingertips, inside that fin it contains all the same bones as humans. And though it no longer has legs bones, those muscles quickly flip its powerful, broad flukes up and down.

Ocean Action: putting extinction in perspective
The final part of the exhibit, Ocean Action, asks visitors to act to protect the oceans. For most of human history it was inconceivable that anything humans would do could affect the large expanse of the world’s oceans, their consequent effects upon weather and impacts on the continents, nor upon the conditions which sustain human life and evolutionary success.
Most people are aware of the cumulative changes in the ocean. What they fail to appreciate sufficiently is that we have already crossed some thresholds, and stopping human effects upon marine life and habitat will not stop the changes, unless we reverse some of the most pervasive human impacts upon the ocean.
The most conspicuous of these impacts is the affect of human’s accelerating release of carbon dioxide since the Industrial Revolution. While there are many individual opinions on this, the educated consensus of almost 99 percent of scientists is that the results of this pollution is a matter of historical record.
Of course, the change in weather has been observed to accelerate the frequency of weather-induced disasters. The observed rapid reduction of glaciers and other fresh-water reservoirs means we will no longer have an abundance of fresh water, which humans require to live. And if that were not enough, we are tapping underground fresh-water reservoirs and polluting the remaining ones. Water wars are a familiar theme in human history.
The tropical coral reefs are located in less than 4 percent of the planet but contain more than half of the world’s abundance and diversity of life. Carbon dioxide absorbed by the oceans is alarmingly changing the acidity of the oceans. Beyond the delicate balance in oceanic pH, it’s impossible for the coral in reefs to create their structures housing their minute animal partners. Without being able to create their defenses, they too will be extinguished.
The second aspect is the pollution of plastics in the ocean. Plastics are not biodegradable. The amount of plastic floating in the oceans is accumulating and will not disappear for centuries, though it may disintegrate further to microscopic levels. Today five of the seven oceans of the world contain “gyres” or pollution garbage patches, which are larger than some states and many nations.
If the microscopic granules of plastic are absorbed by microscopic marine plants and animals, not merely can it interfere with their metabolism, but also with their photosynthesis of oxygen for the planet, which humans require for life even more critically than fresh water. While oceans occupy three-quarters of the earth’s surface, they produce a majority of the world’s oxygen.
We have come to realize that the ocean’s supply of fish is not sustainable. By recklessly harvesting juvenile fish, we not merely kill that fish but deplete from the entire species its potential spawn. Sustainable fishing is the only solution. It relies upon behavioral change on two facets: the producers and the consumers. The latter is the easier to change.
The more pervasive behavioral change but the one with the greatest potential is changing the ways of fishing. It is well known that seine netting is so indiscriminate that the “by-catch” includes and kills numerous endangered fish and sea mammals. Equally bad is the scourge of “drag netting” where the fishermen scour the ocean floor before hauling up their catch, leaving behind a ruined habitat. And finally, there is the entrapment by scuttling mile-long, old nets at sea, which sink and can entrap anything below them.
There is much we can do to preserve our oceans. But everything begins with the first step of not polluting our oceans, and then remediating the conditions that we have already created. Exhibiting collections of manmade marine debris, the art works in this part encourages us “to pass on plastic, clean up the flow, and to become seafood savvy.”

So, if you’re coming to San Francisco for America’s Cup, be sure to visit CalAcademy in Golden Gate Park to marvel at sea speed and our role in sustainable oceans.

Ted Olsson
San Francisco