After months of planning, prepping and politicking, the teams for the 34th America’s Cup are now set with boats hitting the water for the first regatta event in 18 days.
The opening races of the 2012-13 America’s Cup World Series to be held Aug. 21-26 will kick off a year of sailing festivities in The City, which culminates next summer with up to 55 days of competition, including the highly anticipated America’s Cup finals in September 2013.
“It’s not a promise anymore — it’s a reality,” America’s Cup Event Authority CEO Stephen Barclay said Thursday.
The first step toward actual competition took place at midnight Wednesday when the field of challengers for next summer’s contest was finalized. Four teams — Artemis Racing (Sweden), Emirates Team New Zealand, Luna Rossa Challenge (Italy) and Team Korea (South Korea) — will face off in the Louis Vuitton Cup, which runs from July 4 through Sept. 1, and the winner will earn a date with Larry Ellison’s Oracle Team USA in the best-of-17 America’s Cup finals (Sept. 7 to Sept. 22).
Barclay said the 2013 group might be the strongest set of challengers a defender has faced since the Cup’s multi-challenger era started in 1970.
But before the main event gets under way next year, San Franciscans will be treated to an appetizer when the AC World Series rolls into town this month. Don’t be confused: The AC World Series and the 34th America’s Cup are completely separate events. The AC World Series, which concluded its inaugural season in July, is a circuit tour where competitors collect points at various events throughout the course of a season. The America’s Cup, on the other hand, is a match between a defender and a challenger that’s held approximately every three years for the oldest trophy in international sports (1851).
The AC World Series will open its 2012-13 season in The City Aug. 21, when up to 11 boats representing eight nations set sail on the Bay. A second event will be held in from Oct. 2 to Oct. 7.
“Our ambition is for San Franciscans to taste what this is about, to whet their appetite for the main event, which is next year,” Barclay said.
Next summer will be packed with events starting with more AC World Series races next spring. The opening ceremony for the 34th America’s Cup will be held on the Fourth of July, kicking off two months of racing for the Louis Vuitton Cup.
Sandwiched between the Louis Vuitton Cup and America’s Cup final will be the first-ever Red Bull Youth America’s Cup, featuring the top international sailors between the ages of 19 and 24.