Friday, August 20, 2010

Niche Sports: In The News

Regular readers will remember that I'm a Niche Sports Fan. Aside from baseball, my sporting tastes are a little more off the beaten path. I follow Formula One motor racing and IndyCar racing. NASCAR? Not much. I love Grand Tour Bicycle racing, and Le Tour de France is my favorite Sporting Event...all three weeks of it. I watch Alpine Skiing every Winter, and in Winter Olympic years, I actually seek out and watch Curling along with the Alpine Ski Racing. I totally missed the America's Cup Regatta from Valencia, Spain this past February...but it was easy to wasn't televised as far as I know, and the regatta itself took place in just one week, thanks to some heated legal battling leading up to the racing.

It was by pure happenstance that I found out about the 33rd America's Cup Regatta. Facebook suggested that I follow "America's Cup 33", so I did. This was right in the middle of the deciding race! I found a Twitter link and followed in real-time until BMW Oracle won the race, and it turned out the Cup itself. I found out the rest of the story over the following days, and was overjoyed that the America's Cup Regatta could really, at last, finally be coming to my beloved San Francisco Bay!

Seeing the America's Cup racers on SF Bay has been my dream since I first watched the LIVE ESPN coverage of the America's Cup from Newport, Rhode Island back in 1983, when the Cup was lost by the American sailors for the first time.

Australia's innovative Winged Keel was the winning technology that fired the opening shot of the High Tech Arms Race that A/C Racing has become today. Concurrently, TV mini-cam development had reached the stage where TV Producers could mount a dozen minicams on each racing yacht, and provide broadcast quality LIVE video from the decks of the competitors as they battled gunwale to gunwale on the high seas. This was very compelling television.

In 1986, the Louis Vuitton Cup racing trials were underway to choose the American Challenger Syndicate to go to Fremantle, Australia to wrest the cup away from the Aussies and bring it back to the States. Seven Syndicates had entered the Challenger Series. A local Bay Area rogue sailor named Tom Blackaller, who'd grown up racing on San Francisco Bay helmed  the 12 Meter boat named USA.

The 12 Meter sailboat, USA was the embodiment of "Thinking outside the box". Staying within the restrictive 12 Meter Formula, USA was a quantum leap in 12 Meter design. The boat had twin rudders, fore and aft, and the ballast was all moved to a torpedo shaped "bulb" hanging from the bottom of the thin, narrow, keel. As you might imagine, USA could "turn on a dime" and was extremely fast in the water. Crew mistakes and ill-timed teething problems with the high tech twin rudder steering allowed Dennis Connor's Stars & Stripes to challenge and beat Australia's Kookabarra 3 in Fremantle's 1987 A/C Regatta.

The Louis Vuitton Cup lasted several weeks, and ESPN broadcast two races live daily. While I watched the racing, it dawned on me that if  Blackaller's spaceship could win the regatta, it was virtually assured that he'd go Down Under and bring home the Cup. This meant the America's Cup would really be contested on San Francisco Bay!

Fast forward 21 years. My dream is nearly realized. High Tech Titan, Larry Ellison's BMW Oracle, sponsored by the Golden Gate Yacht Club, is seeking to host the America's Cup Regatta on San Francisco Bay in 2013/2014. As far as I know, at least ten Federal, State, and Local Regulatory Agencies need to sign off on Bayside Support Infrastructure.

In San Francisco, this spells nothing but trouble.

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