Without a doubt, one of the prettiest sights in the Bay Area is a fleet of sailboats making their way underneath the Golden Gate Bridge on a sunny day. San Francisco residents and visitors will be treated to quite a few pretty sights in the next 12 months as the America’s Cup, the oldest trophy in international sport, comes to San Francisco in 2013. The America’s Cup will bring the world’s best sailors and the world’s fastest sailboats to San Francisco Bay next year — and fans can get a taste of the action as early as this October, when the second Regatta of the 2012-2013 America’s Cup World Series gets underway. Designed to showcase the new catamaran style of America’s Cup racing, the America’s Cup World Series features teams from across the globe (France, Italy, Korea, New Zealand, UK, USA, China and Sweden), including several sailors who just won medals at the London Olympics, and many who will be competing in next year’s events. It’s the biggest event in the sailing world, and San Francisco is hosting it!
My husband is a big sailing fanatic, so we went to Marina Green last month to watch the first Regatta of the America’s Cup World Series, braving the crowds to cheer on defending campion Oracle Team USA Spithill. The racecourse was set just off the waters of Marina Green, so we had an excellent view of the race — close enough to catch the spray from the boats, and close enough for the sailors to hear the crowd cheer. There was no shortage of excitement, with giant, twin-hulled catamarans flying past us at breathtaking speed, narrowly escaping capsizing and collisions right and left (one boat actually did crash into a Race Committee boat, in spectacular fashion). After the races, fans could visit the AC Village at Marina Green to see life-sized models of the competitor’s boats, plot their own virtual racecourses, practice trimming sails, and see the winning teams take the stage to accept their trophies. Even kids were able to get in on the fun, with a Kids’ Village where young sailors can make their own boats to race, and a play area that simulates the conditions on the racing boats.
We had a great time watching the America’s Cup World Series, and are already looking forward to the second regatta in October. It’s going to a lot of fun, but to enjoy the experience fully, it’s worth doing some advance planning. Over 150,000 people attended the first Regatta in August, and at least that many are expected to turn out for the second. What’s more, the second Regatta is scheduled for the same week as San Francisco’s Fleet Week (October 2-7), so the crowds will be even bigger than usual. If you’re planning to head up that week, here are a few things to consider:
* There are ticketed bleacher seats around the waterfront, but there’s no shortage of free places to watch the race — the beach along Crissy Field, the breaker wall along the St. Francis Yacht Club, the rocky sea wall near the Golden Gate Yacht Club. The races only last about 20-30 minutes each, so make sure you arrive early to have enough time to stake out a good spot.
* Parking is always a huge challenge around the Marina, and with Fleet Week and the America’s Cup races, it will be an even bigger challenge that week. If you head to Crissy Field first thing in the morning, you might be able to find parking there — but once the Fleet Week airshow ends, you might get stuck in a huge traffic jam to get out, so you might want to plan to spend the whole day there.
* If you have a bike rack on your car, consider taking your bikes along, parking at a more distant location, and biking to the event.
* Not sure what to do about food? Crissy Field has two great cafes — Cafe Crissy and The Warming Hut — and the AC Village will have numerous food and beverage options. In addition, the cafes at Chestnut Street are just a short walk away, and you can buy sandwiches from the Safeway store at the end of the Marina.