With all the commentary about this version of the Cup—costs too high, limited number of teams, high danger levels—I wanted to see for myself whether there was in-person excitement matching anywhere close to the energy of the on-screen commentary from race presenters Tucker Thompson and Andy Green.
From the outset, the organizers of this version of the historic Cup aimed to reach a different audience from previous events. No longer targeting core audience of 40 year old and up men, who are willing to watch small white triangles off in the distance, San Francisco organizers aimed to bring in a whole new crowd: 20-35 year olds, and more women—who may not even be sailors. To do this, they brought together in-shore and up-close racing, stadium seating, big screens with digital overlays, all tied together with high-energy coverage. The goal was to provide thrills and spills similar to a Formula 1 event.
The main event area called America’s Cup Park is near the finish, along the Embarcadero. The park was full of energy; cheering supporters, big screens, cafés and bars, a concert venue and even access to the skippers who provided interviews right amongst the crowds. Teams pass through before racing each race day. According to Genny Tulloch with the media team, “We are partnering with the sponsors to build awareness of the event to a younger and more female audience through fashion and music attractions, such as a limited edition Louis Vuitton bag, Puma Yard Bar sponsored DJs, and Red Bull Youth America’s Cup.”
(To learn more about the Red Bull Youth America’s Cup, read our Digital Vagabond’s blog posts.)
And from my view, they are succeeding. There was a party atmosphere and a wide variety of people. Many I talked to had come to the event as part of a trip to San Francisco, to experience the event or to see one of the bands (Imagine Dragons, Sting, Train, Jonas Brothers, to name a few). And right alongside these casual fans, the hard-core Team New Zealand supporters also seemed to be having a great time, which is not surprising seeing how many of the sailors are Kiwis.
For those looking for a more low-key atmosphere, the other viewing at Marina Green near the Golden Gate Bridge (which faces the start and mark 1) is a contrast. Marina Green is more for the hard-core fan, with its 180 degree view of the racecourse. Activities keep the kids happy, including a boat pond and bouncy nets. I’m not convinced the grandstand area is worth the money, but the view was superb.
The higher-than-allowed winds certainly put a damper on the event. And there was a definite sense of disappointment after multiple technical issues, and a bit of grumbling that ‘there has not been a race where 2 boats actually finished’. However, even with some negativity there were a lot of visitors. And the kids going out in Open Bics to sail around the Bay https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ov5N3Gv2Xew certainly helped fill a gap in the program.
I would highly recommend a visit if you get the chance. For more information on where to watch, or to watch the racing online, visit the America’s Cup website.