View Full Version : Jumping on the bandwagon

PD Staff
01-27-2011, 12:12 PM
By Jove, I think they have finally gotten it!

You've heard the promises about the America's Cup in San Francisco. It will reinvent the waterfront, pour a billion dollars into the economy, and cure world hunger. And sure, it will probably be a real game changer for the city.

But this is San Francisco, a city that never met a project it couldn't smother in red tape. The qualifying races could be here as soon as 2012. The amount of prep work is staggering, from relocating 77 port tenants (and you know some of them are going to fight), meeting state environmental regulations, and (oh yeah) making infrastructure improvements that will run to the tens of millions of dollars.

So it is no surprise that in the next few months Larry Ellison's Oracle Racing is going to throw USA-17, the ginormous trimaran that won the 33rd America's Cup, into the bay. USA-17 is on a freighter right now, headed for the Panama Canal and then San Francisco. When it arrives, around March 1, it will be assembled and then will probably sail through the bay.

It will be like nothing you've ever seen in your life.

Picture the Bay Bridge. Now picture the top of the mast of USA-17 crashing into the span. It's that tall. The carbon fiber mast (think of a 747 wing but bigger) USA-17 used to win the Cup is 223 feet. The vertical clearance for the west side of the Bay Bridge is 220 feet. For the east it is just 191 feet. They will need to use a smaller mast to fit it under the bridge.

Talk about a battleship in a bathtub. Every spin around the bay will be a traffic-stopper.

The idea is to fire up enthusiasm for the event just as the really hard work begins. There must be cooperation and many groups must put aside their personal interests. Cynics would call that unlikely, but I'd ask them to consider the payoff.

In 1995, a team from New Zealand won the Cup in San Diego to earn the right to host the event in Auckland in 2000. Chronicle reader John Bostock was vacationing in Auckland that year.

"I went for a little run down by the waterfront," Bostock recalled, "and it looked strikingly like the piers in San Francisco. They were crumbling, dangerous, and there weren't even buildings there."

For better perspective, Bostock suggested I call a friend of his in New Zealand, Gray Mathias.

"It was such a crap heap," Mathias says. "They used to store logs in the water. There were a couple of fish processing facilities, which was not that pleasant."

And then the sailing teams began to arrive. Each constructed a large "base," where they could store materials and work on their boats. The structures were large enough to house several boats with their masts down. Investors surrounded the bases with apartments, a hotel, and restaurants and bars. That's when Bostock returned for a visit.

"The transformation was jaw-dropping," Bostock said. "You'd never know it was the same place."

"I have lived in Auckland since I was in high school," said Mathias, who is 63. "And I have been involved in sailing my whole life. But I totally underestimated the benefits of the America's Cup."

The harbor was filled with luxurious private boats ranging from 100 to 150 feet.

"We must have had 30 to 40 big superyachts," Mathias said. "Most of the owners don't know a bloody thing about sailing, but they like to be seen."

A berthing area for the superyachts included maintenance facilities, which have continued to operate. Auckland is now port of call for high-rolling yachters.

Like the San Francisco waterfront, Auckland's harbor was ripe for improvement. But it needed a jump-start.

"The key is you need a reason for that level of development," Mathias said. "And you couldn't come up with a better one, even the Olympic Games."

That's bold talk. But keep them in mind when you see USA-17 squeaking under the Bay Bridge. This is an event that thinks big.

C.W. Nevius' column appears Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. E-mail him at cwnevius@sfchronicle.com.

Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2011/01/26/BAIN1HEJL3.DTL#ixzz1CGh9WVaT

Charlie Tuna
01-27-2011, 02:08 PM
The media machine that is Oracle Racing is kicking it into high gear!

01-27-2011, 02:10 PM
Glad to see someone reporting the great potential of the event, and USA 17 tooling around the SF Bay.