If you go to San Francisco...
If you go to San Francisco in the near future you might not want to wear flowers in your hair as the song suggests but you will certainly want to catch the America's Cup action that will certainly take place there, especially now that BMW Oracle has declared the Californian city as the sole US candidate city. The decision shouldn't come as a surprise at all. San Francisco is after all the home port of the Golden Gate Yacht Club, the winner of the 33rd America's Cup, while Larry Ellison, owner of BMW Oracle, has repeatedly stated the city was his top choice. I, personally, cannot imagine any reason, other than some devastating earthquake, for NOT holding the world's oldest trophy in Ellison's backyard.
Yet, one thing that becomes apparent in the official communication regarding the choice is the focus by BMW Oracle on the "nationalization" of the venues and the efforts to host the Cup. The event is not hosted by a city but rather by a country. One similar example in the world of sports is the football (soccer) world championship that Spain won last Sunday. The championship wasn't hosted by a city but by a country. The opening and closing ceremonies and the final match might have taken place in Johannesburg but the rest of the games were held in another 8 different cities spread around the country.
Could this mean a much reduced role for the venue of the actual match? In the 32nd America's Cup all official racing that took place in Spain was in Valencia. If France, Spain, Italy or Portugal present "national bids" could this mean that the various annual pre-regattas would be held all around the countries rather than one city? With 6 to 8 regattas planned each year there is ample opportunity to stage them in a country. If one considers Valencia, Alicante is just 100 nautical miles away, Palma barely 80 while Barcelona is 200 miles further north. So, within a radius of 200 nautical miles you have 4 excellent venues. The same concept could be applied to France, Portugal or Italy. The ease of transportation being one of the fundamental aspects of the new yachts it is not hard to imagine why BMW Oracle has in mind.
Paragraph 24.1 of the 34th AC Draft Protocol even goes further and states that "The Match may be in more than one Venue." I have to admit it's the first time I have ever seen a document suggesting that a yacht race can be raced in more than one venues and it seems an aberration if you think in conventional terms. Take for example the 32nd America's Cup match in July 2007 in Valencia. Alinghi beat Emirates Team New Zealand 5 to 2 and no further races were necessary since it was a best-of-nine series. It would have been absurd halfway through, let's say after 3 races when the kiwis were leading 2-1 to pack up and go to Alicante for the remaining races. It would have even been considered a ploy by Alinghi to destabilize their opponent.
What could happen if instead of best-of-nine the match were best-of-twenty five? The worst case scenario is for one team to win 13 straight races and take the trophy undefeated. It is possible yet extremely improbable because it is extremely difficult to imagine such a differential in performance between the Defender and the Challenger. With a much longer series in the America's Cup match you could have the first ten races held in San Diego and even in the worst case the winner will not be decided. Then the Cup can move to San Francisco where the remaining and decisive races take place.
Does it seem too far fetched a scenario? Not according to some people...
Meanwhile in Valencia...
Two of the yachts that, according to BMW Oracle's official line, will help determine what boat will finally be used in the next AC are getting ready next to Alinghi's base. The eleven RC44 yachts that will take part in the Valencia RC44 Cup have already arrived and "BMW Oracle" and "17" are the first ones to be fitted out since they will have to be ready in 8 days for the 34th AC Trials.
Even if the America's Cup moves to the US what are the chances Valencia could still play a significant role in sailing's top event? First of all we hear from reliable sources that BMW Oracle will be staying in their base at least until December and with the infrastructure being already in place here it would make sense for the teams to stay until early 2013, assuming the match takes place in September 2013.
BMW Oracle's two RC44 yachts getting ready for next week's trials. Valencia, 12 July 2010. Photo copyright Pierre Orphanidis / Valencia Sailing