Opening ceremony officially kicks off America's Cup regatta 

click to enlarge America's Cup ceremonies Thursday kicked off the racing for July. - ALEX LEBER/SPECIAL TO THE S.F. EXAMINER
  • Alex Leber/Special to The S.F. Examiner
  • America's Cup ceremonies Thursday kicked off the racing for July.

For one day, everything at the America's Cup went according to plan.

Despite the turmoil threatening the first week of racing in the Louis Vuitton Cup challenger series, which kicks off on Sunday, the opening ceremony at the America's Cup Pavillion on Thursday went off without a hitch.

"I'm pleased to say, let the racing begin," said Lucy Jewett, a San Francisco resident and longtime America's Cup supporter, at the ceremony's conclusion.

The summer's first race between Emirates Team New Zealand and Luna Rossa (Italy) will take place on Sunday at 12:15 p.m. on the waterfront, but a dispute over rudder elevators is putting the remainder of the Louis Vuitton Cup in jeopardy.

The Cup's five-member international jury is scheduled to hear protests from New Zealand and Luna Rossa on Monday regarding regatta director Iain Murray's safety recommendation for larger rudder elevators on teams' 72-foot catamarans, which they believe will give Oracle Team USA a competitive advantage.

If the jury sides with the Kiwis and the Italians, Murray said he will ask the coast guard to revoke the regatta's permit.

But Thursday's opening ceremony at Piers 27/29 was free of conflict as the four teams competing for the 34th America's Cup paraded across the stage and introduced themselves to The City.

The ceremony featured the raising of the American, Swedish, New Zealand and Italian flags, a tribute to the late Andrew "Bart" Simpson of Artemis Racing and cultural performances celebrating the four countries competing in this year's regatta.

Voices of Sweden, led by San Francisco Symphony Chorus Maestro Ragnar Bohlin, sang for Artemis Racing, San Jose State graduate Pasquale Esposito performed for the Italians and Te Waka Huia put on a show honoring the indigenous Maori culture of New Zealand.

"It's very cool to be up here in San Francisco and have a little bit of New Zealand, too," New Zealand skipper Dean Barker said.

Beach Blanket Babylon's Misa Malone performed a number from the show for defending champion Oracle.

Roughly 7,000 people packed into America's Cup Pavilion on the Fourth of July to watch the ceremony and those who showed up got to catch a glimpse of the Louis Vuitton Cup trophy and the 162-year-old America's Cup trophy.

"Around the same time the gold rush was coming to San Francisco that Cup was being raced for," America's Cup CEO Stephen Barclay said.

The ceremony concluded with flyover aerial show from Team Oracle aerobatic pilot Sean D. Tucker, who looped above the pavilion leaving rings of white-jet smoke in the clear-blue sky.

Oracle Team USA skipper Jimmy Spithill told the crowd he's eager to defend the Cup in September.

"Bring it on," he said.

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Paul Gackle

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