Big interest in new San Francisco America’s Cup style series

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The new San Francisco Yacht Racing Cup, to be sailed in ‘Super 12s” has attracted interest from 20 teams from 12 countries.

The new regatta will be the richest in the sport, carrying a total prizemoney of $500,000, with $300,000 going to the winner, $150,000 to second and $50,000 to the third placegetter.

The inaugural event will start in July 2017 – just after the 35th America’s Cup in Bermuda.

SFYRC is the brainchild of Golden Gate Yacht Club Vice-Commodore, Tom Ehman. The event has been renamed from Golden Gate Yacht Racing Cup to the San Francisco Yacht Racing Cup out of deference to the wider involvement of the clubs surrounding San Francisco Bay.

The clubs will all host teams, which will use existing facilities around the Bay, coming together each day for racing on the America’s Cup course area used for the 34th America’s Cup.

Plans for the event were revealed in a closed meeting in San Francisco last week to which Bay Area yachts clubs were invited to send three representatives. Media were banned from the meeting to allow a freer flow of discussion and prevent the public disclosure of the identities of those teams and nations who have expressed strong interest in being involved.

The elephant in the room with the SFYRC is quite how such and event can be organised in a venue which should rightfully be the venue for the Defence of the 35th America’s Cup, and why there were difficulties with the Bayside Authorities which were touted as being the stumbling block for the America’s Cup. The only real difference being the fact that the SFYRC uses existing facilities, rather than the central Cup Village and dock space preferred for the 34th America’s Cup in the same locale.

So far, there does not seem to be local issues with his new event, and one which promises to be almost three times the size of the current America’s Cup.

New boat, but classic look retained
The new Cup will be sailed in a class called the ‘Super 12s’, a reference to the 12-Metre class used for the America’s Cup from 1958 to 1987.

The new boat will be updated – retaining the classic looks of the 12 Metre above the waterline, but being a contemporary design below the waterline. The rig is expected to be a classic sloop of the 12 Metre era – but with carbon spars, and conventional sails, utilising contemporary technology and materials.

All the fleet will be new boats constructed as a tightly controlled one-design, more like the Laser, rather than revamped 12M yachts that still race in Classics events.
Entry to the Event will be by invitation only on criteria that are yet to be revealed. Costs of a campaign will be reasonably affordable, with the boat cost put at under $3 million and the per cost of a campaign well under $1 million.

The event will be sailed annually, but always at San Francisco. There will be no naming rights sponsor, but some event sponsorship. Similarly for the teams – team sponsors will be permitted with some branding on the boats, sails and crew clothing.

The big advantage for the teams and sponsors is that the event will be sailed annually, giving a good opportunity for sponsor involvement and easing the between-series shut-down for the teams which exists with the America’s Cup.

Budgets too are a fraction of the America’s Cup efforts, each of which spent in excess of $100million to sail in the last America’s Cup at the same venue.

Key moves to reduce the cost of entry include use of existing boatyards and sail lofts, a prohibition on hauling the boats each day (aside from a single haul-out during the regatta) and with instrumentation restricted to just a Windex, compass, hand-held GPS and depth sounder. Each team will be allowed just a single chase boat.

For added cost savings, the deck hardware packages will also be one design. Sails will also be strictly one design, with a limited inventory, a concept that has proven successful and popular in this edition of the Volvo Ocean Race.

The boats themselves will be of carbon-composite construction, unlike the Classic 12 metres which were generally of aluminium except, of course, for the three famous fiberglass Kiwi boats built for the 1987 Cup in Fremantle — KZ 3, KZ5 and KZ7. The keel will be a modern fin keel with a bulb and winglets, instead of the deep fore-footed style of the Classics 12’s.

Strong nationality and crew requirements
There will be significant changes in the crew makeup from Your Father’s America’s Cup.

The Super 12’s will sail with a total of 12 crew — two must be age 22 or under, there must be at least two women and two men on the crew, and one must be over 62 years old. There is also provision for a 13th guest crew – sponsor, VIP, media, etc.

A strict nationality rule will be enforced – 100% from the country of the club of entry. In other words, the nationality requirement returns to that of the early 1980’s when the New York Yacht Club were the Defender and insisted on the very strict nationality of sailing crew and designers.

There will be no restriction on professional sailors in the crews, and it is expected that professionals will sail alongside top amateurs. In short there will be Pro-Am crews, with a mix of professional skippers and owner-skippers. There will be awards recognising owner-skippers. The only real criteria in the crew is a 100% single nationality criteria – which will bring a strong international edge to the event, in contrast to the heavily diluted nationality requirements of the current America’s Cup competition.

The racing will consist of format that starts with fleet racing with the top four progressing to the Match Racing and the Finals. Those who don’t make the cut will be kept racing in a fleet racing series that will determine the places from fifth to last. All competitors will be kept racing and involved in serious competition until the end of the two-week regatta. Unlike the America’s Cup and other match racing events, there is no knock-out phase and all crews race for the duration of the regatta.

The Grand Final will be a match racing series between the top two boats on best of five basis (i.e., the first boat to win three races) to determine the Overall Champion.

While other courses are under consideration, it is currently envisaged that the Semi-Finals and Finals will be sailed over America’s Cup style courses consisting of a start, short reach, a run and then a beat and run to the finish. Meaning that most of the racing will be downwind, and there will only be one beat in the five legs.

Plenty of vantage points for fans
The race area again is similar to the 34th America’s Cup between Alcatraz, Fort Mason and the Golden Gate – providing plenty of vantage points for spectators ashore, and without the dog-leg around downtown to a finish line out of view of spectators in the main viewing area along Marina Green.

The regatta will be sailed two months earlier than the America’s Cup – in July – when the breeze is always above 13kts and a third of the days in the month the afternoon breeze is in excess of 22kts.

Corporate hospitality is planned to be located between St Francis YC and Golden Gate YC, with a fan and public area on Marina Green and Grandstands – all affording and excellent view of the racing. The spectator fleet will be confined to the opposite shore towards Alcatraz (as it was during AC34) – but quite how that works out in reality in the fresh breezes and steep seas in a wind against the tide situation remains to be seen.

Extensive television coverage is planned – again along the lines of the 34th America’s Cup, with broadcast rights being offered, and global streaming – presumably by Youtube – will be blocked in territories where the coverage Rights have been sold.

Modelled on other major sporting contests such as Wimbledon and the Masters of golf, all boats will start on an equal basis. There is no provision for the Defending Champion to enjoy any rights in the following regatta.

The concept for the regatta has been presented in San Francisco and also in Newport RI, during the recent Volvo Ocean Race Stopover.

Ehman reports strong enthusiasm for the event that picks up the lost traditions of the America’s Cup – Nationality, encouraging owner drivers, and dramatically lowering team costs.While it will be an “open” regatta with no restrictions as to pros or amateurs, the rules do help mitigate some of the worst aspects of professional sailing. Entry is by invitation only to control numbers and fleet quality – again emulating Wimbledon and the Golf Masters.

The first regatta is planned for July 2017 and will be held on an annual basis thereafter.

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