Before the focus of the sailing world comes to San Francisco in August, the top teams in the world will compete in Newport, R.I., this week as part of the America’s Cup World Series.
The teams have been practicing on the East Coast since Friday, and racing will run from Thursday through Sunday.
Artemis Racing, representing the Royal Swedish Yacht Club, features the only American-born helmsman, though Terry Hutchinson said he doesn’t expect that to give him much of an advantage in the stateside legs of the series.
“I think our competition, everybody’s really, really good,” he said. “If it gives you an advantage the advantage is that you know slightly what’s going to happen. You understand a little bit better. ... If you feel comfortable in your environment, you’ll be a little more relaxed.”
Following the runs in Rhode Island, the event will shift to San Francisco Bay. The first Bay Area event, which runs from Aug. 21-26, will be “a combination of practice and championship racing, with additional practice sailing on-site ahead of each event,” according to the event’s official website.
The sailors will make another appearance during Fleet Week, Oct. 4-7, before heading to Italy for World Series events in Venice and Naples in April and May, respectively, and will return to San Francisco in September 2013 for the finals.
The lengthy schedule ahead doesn’t mean competitors won’t be pushing themselves during these middle rounds, however.
“Every time we go out, whether it’s a practice race or a real race, our hopes are to practice like we race,” Hutchinson said. “So when we’re in the racing environment, it’s not anything different for us on board the boat.”
Though Hutchinson said Artemis’ biggest competition will be themselves, defending champion Jimmy Spithill of Team Oracle said Emirates Team New Zealand, which won the America’s Cup in 1995 and 2000, has the best chance to knock off the defending champs.
“I think team New Zealand will be very strong,” he said. “They have over a decade of experience of being a team together. Even longer for some of them. There’s no shortcut to spending that amount of time together as a group.”