America's Cup festivities get underway in San Francisco 

click to enlarge Race fans make their way into America's Cup Park along the waterfront Thursday. By Andrea Koskey - ERIC RISBERG/AP
  • eric risberg/ap
  • Race fans make their way into America's Cup Park along the waterfront Thursday. By Andrea Koskey

Let the races begin.

The 34th America's Cup officially started Thursday with an opening ceremony and ribbon cutting that allowed thousands of friends, family and fans to pack Pier 27-29 on San Francisco's waterfront to tour the new park.

Thousands of sailing enthusiasts and nearby residents stopped by America's Cup Park to visit the team stores, taste cuisine from the new restaurants and visit an Exploratorium exhibit about how the 72-foot catamarans will glide across San Francisco Bay.

Fans were also able to see the racing boats and super-yachts parked along one side of the pier.

"We want to hold up a sign that says, 'Hey Larry, can we get a ride,'" Randy Laybhan, 65, jokingly said while standing just feet from where the three-story luxury yacht Musashi was docked. He and many other racing fans assumed the mega yacht to be owned by Oracle CEO Larry Ellison.

America's Cup officials would not comment on the boat's owner.

"We're big fans, that's why we're staking out this boat," Laybhan said.

Laybhan and his wife, Pattie, came to the pier Thursday for the opening ceremonies. The San Francisco couple said they've been fans of the races for years and were excited about the event coming to The City.

"We've been waiting three years for this," Laybhan said.

Laybhan was confident that when all was said and done, Oracle Team USA — owned by Ellison — would come out on top and the Cup would return to the Bay in two years.

"There's no question," he said.

Peggy Bosley and her husband, Greg, both of Vacaville, also hoped to see Oracle win the America's Cup again this year, but both said they had a soft spot in their hearts for Emirates Team New Zealand.

"We were in New Zealand in the year 2000 for the races," Peggy Bosley said.

The Bosleys said they plan to travel to San Francisco for as many races as they can. Though they've been to America's Cup races before, both agreed that being able to see the races — which end off Pier 27-29 — will add to the excitement.

"Of course TV coverage is always nice to see for the tactical work," Peggy Bosley said. "But being able to see it in person adds a whole 'nother level."

Maria Moles, of England, agreed that seeing the finish line from shore would add to the races. Moles traveled to San Francisco to visit her twin sister, whose husband is a trainer for Sweden's Artemis Racing.

"It's really family oriented," she said of the park. "We're excited to see the village too."

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