San Francisco Social Diary: The 34th America’s Cup Opening Race

Emirates Team New Zealand (named for its sponsor, Emirates Airline) sailing in San Francisco Bay for the 34th America’s Cup regatta.

On Sunday, July 7, the 34th America’s Cup regatta opened with the first race in the 30th annual Louis Vuitton Cup. The winner of the Vuitton Cup races, taking place through July and August, will challenge the current defending champions, Team Oracle USA, in the America’s Cup Finals in mid-September.

It was a historic day for the “City by the Bay”—its first time hosting the America’s Cup.

The 34th America’s Cup regatta kicked off on Sunday, July 7th with the first Louis Vuitton Cup race.

This marks the 30th anniversary for the Louis Vuitton Cup, first run in Newport, Rhode Island in l983.

The iconic symbol of San Francisco, the Golden Gate Bridge provides a picturesque backdrop for the races.


Oracle Team USA, founded by billionaire Oracle Corp. CEO Larry Ellison, won the 33rd America’s Cup in 2010. As the winner, Ellison was allowed to determine the site and the rules for the next competition. He chose San Francisco as the site and Australian yachtsman Jimmy Spithill as his skipper.

Thousands of spectators in San Francisco headed to the Bay for the regatta.

The 72-foot-long AC72 (“America’s Cup 72 Class”) catamaran has massive fixed sails, is 13 stories tall, and is capable of top speeds faster than twice the windspeed.

Each team had to design and build its own AC72 for racing in the Louis Vuitton Cup and the America’s Cup Finals.


Due to global economic problems and the prohibitive cost of the new boats ($6–$8 million), there are just four competitors in the America’s Cup competition: defending champion USA and challengers Sweden, New Zealand, and Italy.

Oracle Team USA practicing with its two boats in San Francisco Bay in June.

Oracle Team USA on a trial run.

Italy’s Team Luna Rossa testing out the course.

Team Luna Rossa and Team New Zealand running a trial together.

Team USA and Team New Zealand practicing in the Bay.


The 2013 regatta is quite different from the first America’s Cup race I saw in Perth, Australia in 1983. Then, the Royal Perth Yacht Club’s Australia II, with its controversial winged keel, won the Louis Vuitton Challenger Series by beating American defender Dennis Conner’s Liberty.

That was the first time in 132 years that the New York Yacht Club lost the America’s Cup to another country.

Today the competition seems to be less about sailing skills and more about who can design the fastest boat.

In addition to being the first time the races have taken place inshore instead of offshore, it’s also the first time the sailors have competed in rigid wing-sail catamarans. The so-called “flying boats” use solid carbon-fiber sails similar to airplane wings.

A diagram illustrating the innovative rigid sail design, which splits the air so it passes on both sides of the sail, creating enough lift to raise the catamarans’ hulls out of the water.

With the hulls being raised above the water, the vessels can reach extreme speeds, skimming the water at up to 50 miles per hour, the fastest boats ever to race.

The catamarans are supported by just three small hydrofoils that extend from the hulls into the water.

The boats in this year’s competition were the fastest in the history of the 161-year-old America’s Cup.


On opening Sunday, Emirates Team New Zealand sailed alone to pick up their first point. Italy’s Team Luna Rossa had boycotted the regatta to protest a new safety rule, but New Zealand still had to complete the course to earn their point.

Team New Zealand sailed at record-breaking speeds and completed the 16-nautical-mile course in 46 minutes, 27 seconds. In sailor lingo, the team’s top speed was 42.8 knots (49 mph), a record for the Louis Vuitton Cup.

Team New Zealand took the stage before their first “race.”

New Zealand’s sailors were given a sendoff by the Maori (New Zealand’s indigenous people) performing arts troupe Te Waka Huia.

Team New Zealand was off!

The San Francisco skyline made a beautiful backdrop against which to sail.

The 11-man crews must be in peak physical condition to control the behemoth vessels.

The course consisted of sharp turns and curves marked by orange buoys.

The race took the sailors past Alcatraz Island, site of the former prison.

The catamarans have to make numerous hairpin turns, upping the potential for a capsize.

Even though Team New Zealand wasn’t racing against anyone, crowds lined the shore to watch the exhilarating ride.

After their first run, Team New Zealand was only too happy to sign autographs for fans.


This was first time in its history that spectators could view the Cup races from shore for free. People could also watch from America’s Cup Village at Marina Green, Crissy Field, Angel Island, and numerous other spots around the city. I suspect there were many rooftop parties to watch the races.

For the 34th America’s Cup, a number of additions were made to the waterfront, including the construction of America’s Cup Park (Piers 27 and 29) and America’s Cup Pavilion, with a 9,000-seat amphitheater where video screens were set up to watch the races. Hopes are that the races will have an economic impact on the Bay Area of more than $900 million, including adding nearly 8,000 jobs.

The new America’s Cup Pavilion.

The Pavilion is being used for concerts throughout the summer.

America’s Cup Park is surrounded by the Bay and expansive views of San Francisco’s skyline.

The regatta’s opening weekend drew thousands of spectators to the Bay.

The Park offered a large video screen to watch the races for free, as well as activities like picnicking and lawn games.

An on-site bar offered a comfortable, shaded spot to watch the screen.

Larry Ellison’s efforts to make the sport appeal to a wider demographic seem to be working!

Some spectators showed their national pride with themed outfits.

Miniature flags promoting each competing country were handed out to guests.

The little flags became a fashion accessory for some.


On opening day, Maria Manetti Shrem, a big supporter of the America’s Cup, opened her Russian Hill home to friends and colleagues to watch the race.

She understood what a tremendous opportunity it was for San Francisco to host the sport world’s oldest trophy event.

Maria also hoped to gain supporters to raise money for the San Francisco non-profit, America’s Cup Organizing Committee (ACOC), to help cover costs associated with hosting this prestigious event.

America’s Cup Organizing Committee (ACOC) Head Mark Buell, with host Maria Manetti Shrem, and Jan Shrem.

Maria Manetti Shrem, Golden Gate Yacht Club (GGYC) Vice Commodore Tom Ehman, and ACOC Director of Development Elaine Asher.

Maria introducing the guests of the hour: GGYC Vice Commodore Tom Ehman and ACOC CEO Kyri McClellan.

GGYC member Tom Webster and Kimball Livingston, author of the book America’s Cup San Francisco: The Official Guide.

Richard and Pamela Kramlich with Jean-Charles Boisset.

Tony and Angelique Griepp.

George and Dolly Chammas with Daniel Diaz.

Maria and Jan with a group of guests visiting from Sicily to cheer on Team Italy.

Stanley and Helen Cheng.

Kyri McClellan and Mark Buell.

Daniel Diaz with Holly and Michael Cuggino.

Goretti Lui (left) and two guests from Sicily.

Mark Buell and Maria Manetti Shrem.

Dr. Janice Hansen Zakin with her daughter Tatiana Hansen Zakin.

Jean-Charles Boisset, Jam Shrem, George Chammas, Elisabeth Thieriot, and George Mickum.

Tom Ehman and his daughter Meg Ehman.

Ted Collins and Margaret Lui Collins.

Maggie Wei, Celine Wei, and Helen Cheng.

Mark Buell and Tom Ehman.

Maria Manetti Shrem with three of her visiting guests from Sicily.


America’s Cup photos by Gilles Martin-Raget, Abner Kingman, and Guilain Grenier. Party photos by Drew Altizer.

*Urbanite Jeanne Lawrence reports on lifestyle and travel from her homes in San Francisco, Shanghai, and New York, and wherever else she finds a good story.

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