Concord over discord
On a comfortable Tuesday evening in early July, the Consulates General of Italy, New Zealand and Sweden hosted a reception for their America’s Cup challenger teams. Held al fresco at the Cannery at Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco, each consulate presented a short musical contribution representing their country. Food and drink from each country was in abundance. Near the end, the three consuls appeared on stage to introduce members of their teams.
The event was attended by a couple hundred honored guests. These fans, like the team members themselves, were convivial and supportive, and it was great fun to see the competitors as colleagues, chatting warmly with each other.
Two days later, on the afternoon of July 4—Independence Day for host country USA—the America’s Cup held an elaborate Opening Day Ceremony in the packed 9,000-seat amphitheater at its America’s Cup Park on Pier 27/29.
The show began with Sean D. Tucker, the stunt pilot whose exploits became legendary in 2012, rivaling those of the Blue Angels squadron. There followed a brief video history of the competition and current clips of the four competitors. Huge flags from each of the four countries were carried in by a phalanx of United States Naval Sea Cadets and attached to halyards at the back of the stage. The flags were raised in unison; then standing in front of the U.S. flag held by U.S. Coast Guard Color Guard, 8-year-old Nayah Damasen sang a full-throated, modern rendition of our national anthem. Her phenomenal poise and skill were warmly appreciated by the crowd.
Following the anthem, the crowd stood as the screens portrayed a moving and eloquent tribute to Artemis’ Bart Simpson. Video clips featuring memorable moments in his career and his big-hearted personality were mixed with snapshots and tributes from teammates and officials. It was a most fitting memorial to his tragic loss, and a reminder that even with Regatta Director Murray’s Safety Rules, this Summer of Racing will be challenging.
Louis Vuitton was next saluted for the longest sponsorship in international sports—for more than 30 years running the Louis Vuitton Cup awarded to the winning team who will challenge the Defender.
With that the winning skippers of the Louis Vuitton Cup—John Bertram (’83), Paul Cayard (’92), Russell Coutts (’00 and ’03) and Dean Barker (’07)—were called to the stage. Bertram, speaking for all, thanked Valerie Chapoulaud, the CEO of Louis Vuitton America, for hosting the series and presented her with a photo of the Vuitton Cup against the San Francisco skyline.
The Voices of the America’s Cup, Andy Green and Tucker Thompson, were introduced. These gentlemen gave excellent commentary and color to the preliminary races in 2012, introducing many shoreline spectators to the sport and helping everyone understand what they were watching, by providing both historical and technical explanations. They reminded that even on non-race days the AC Park would host exhibits and discussions with sailing notables. And during the first week of September, the exciting new Red Bull Youth America’s Cup will feature ten teams of young sailors (ages 19 to 24) from eight nations.
This part of the program concluded with a video of these RBYAC sailors, showing the grueling tryouts and perseverance leading to being invited to compete. Theirs should be a stunning performance, since the AC45s of last year are all standardized, making this a test of each nation’s skill and winning teamwork.
A brief concert comprised of representative music from each of the countries was performed. Sweden’s Ragnar Bohlin, maestro of the San Francisco Symphony Chorus, led the Voices of Sweden in a selection of six songs. With this introduction the new 17-member Artemis team was introduced—among them Nathan Outteridge and Loick Peyron, helmsmen, Paul Cayard, tactician, and Iain Percy, skipper. Speaking briefly for the team, Percy said they were recovering from the loss of their good friend and teammate, but they were back on the water and preparing to compete fully.
Each of the other teams were introduced similarly with an ethnic musical prelude, the presentation of the team’s eleven sailors and alternates together with all the team’s shore crew, and concluded with remarks by the team captain. The Italian tenor Pasquale Esposito sang a romantic melody and “Nessun Dorma” before the Italian team took the stage. New Zealand’s Maori Te Waka Huia ensemble provided a haka (a traditional ethnic war-chant/dance) to encourage their countrymen before their team was introduced.
The defending champion and host eventually entertained the crowd. With amped up guitar and dual drummers, the American musicians were the Recycled Percussion Band, who climbed up and down ladders while drumming on them. During their acrobatics, a “missile” of rolled up Oracle T-shirts were shot into the crowd. Then Oracle Team USA took the stage. Standing between the America’s Cup and Louis Vuitton Cup trophies, defending Oracle helmsman Jimmy Spithill said they couldn’t wait to race the best of the challengers.
Finally all four teams were assembled on stage behind the two trophies: the challenger’s Louis Vuitton Cup and the champion’s America’s Cup. Standing off to one side of the trophies were the official hosts: ACEA CEO, Stephen Barclay; San Francisco Mayor Edwin M. Lee; Ms. Jewett, who would inaugurate the races; and, ACRM Regatta Director (selected by all four teams for his impartial judgment) Iain Murray.
The program concluded with Barclay reminding all that they weren’t merely going to see a competitive Summer of Racing but that it would be truly historic. After 162 years of the America’s Cup, this year’s race is one of the fastest sailing events ever. And for the first time, the events can be viewed by spectators for free, simply by lining the shore of the Bay; television broadcast technology makes all the strategies and tactics of the competitors as well as the forces of nature comprehensible. For the first time, the America’s Cup Park will feature entertaining exhibits to teach sailing principles and physics together with ample areas to relax, dine and wine.
Mayor Lee and Iain Murray said some words of welcome, and Lucy M. Jewett, a grand dame of sailing recently inducted into the America’s Cup Hall of Fame, proclaimed, “Let the races begin!”

America’s Cup Park
After the ceremony there was still a warm, sunny day to explore the huge and interesting AC Village within the guarded gate. The finish line is located there, as is the amphitheater and apparel store. To the right of the huge cruise terminal, housing the AC headquarters, large mega-yachts moor, and there’s a wide entryway running the length of the huge pier where there are exhibits and refreshments. One of the exhibits is Fly on the Water, which shows the various technologies in the AC longboats and includes manipulables that help explain sailing techniques and racing strategies. Here each team also has a coordinated exhibit explaining other aspects of the craft.
Inside another tent, Charles Schwab hosts a video for groups of visitors to get a feel for racing and compare the scale of this year’s boats with those of last year. There’s a huge mural, like a paint-by-numbers picture of sea creatures, on which visitors can color to enliven the creatures.


The evening was balmy and encouraged everyone to spend time at the water, strolling and eating along the waterfront, waiting for the Independence Day fireworks to begin after nightfall. The fireworks are set off from a barge moored near Pier 39, but they are easily viewed from the Ferry Building at one end to Crissy Field near the Golden Gate Bridge, and from every hill in the city facing the Bay.

New Zealand sets new record
Due to higher winds than accepted by the new safety rules, Friday’s parade of ships and Saturday’s Time Trials for all four teams were cancelled. On Sunday, New Zealand won Race 1 of the LV Round Robin series. Although it lodged the original protest against the new safety rule requiring longer rudders with wider winglets, it raced the full course, alone. Italy, which later joined the Kiwis in protest, used this as a reason to boycott the race. Their case is to be determined by an international jury of five nautical arbiters.
New Zealand’s solo race at top speed set a new America’s Cup record. As the most experienced of the four teams in foiling, they went all out and provided the most thrilling example of why San Francisco’s America’s Cup will beat all odds and become one of the most memorable races in the history of this competition. The sheer elegance and beauty of this magnificent craft sailed with precise coordination was a master class in 21st century competitive sailing.
Whereas the AC72s without foils could typically reach about 15kts, New Zealand’s AC72 Aotearoa hydroplaned at 42.8kts (49mph)—that’s one 72-foot boat length every second! The crew averaged 20.7kts around the 16.05-nautical-mile course. They will race next against Sweden. That too is likely to be a solo performance to beat their own record, since Artemis’ team and boat are still recovering from their fatal accident.
One thing is for sure: The race for the Cup is on and it will be both thrilling and challenging, even with fewer boats than originally anticipated. July is the most challenging month of the year for weather and water on San Francisco Bay, August improves and September is ideal. But this sport is not one for fair weather sailors. Can you imagine Minnesota or Wisconsin cancelling a football game because of some snow or sleet? July puts points on the board and tests each team against the other in duels. Beginning in August are the Challenger Semifinals; the Finals are in the latter half of the month, concluding by awarding the Louis Vuitton Cup to the official Challenger who will race the Defender in the second and third weeks of September.
The racing schedule can be found on the America’s Cup website: <>
Enjoy a full Summer of Racing on San Francisco Bay, concluding with the selection of the 34th America’s Cup Champion and Defender. Review it all, with great commentary and superb superimposed graphics, explaining all aspects of the race, on YouTube’s America’s Cup channel: <>. Whether you join us physically or virtually, welcome to San Francisco’s America’s Cup—a summer of superb sailing.

Ted Olsson
San Francisco