So Much For Pit Row

Published on October 3rd, 2012

After seemingly endless negotiations with the City of San Francisco to secure Piers 30-32 so the America’s Cup fans could see all the competing teams at one location, it was announced Monday that the teams were no longer required to be based at that location. So much for pit row at the 34th America’s Cup.

What happened? “The vision remains to give the fans interaction with the teams,” explained Stephen Barclay, CEO of the AC Event Authority. “After observing the fans during the August AC World Series event in San Francisco, we under-estimated the desire for people to watch the races from the Marina Green and the peninsula. The popularity for this viewing area and the hospitality provisions that were provided showed us how 2013 should unfold.

“So we decided to use the budget that was dedicated to hospitality and fan engagement at Piers 30-32, which was going to cost in excess of $1 million, and move it to the Marina Green region. This, by the way, does not affect our commitment to creating an engaging fan experience in the Event Village at Piers 27-29, which is where the stage and big screen viewing area will be.

“The push for this change came from the lack of foot traffic at Piers 30-32 during the August AC World Series event, which is where the AC45s were based. It is our expectation now that people who come to watch the America’s Cup will primarily locate either at the Event Village or the Marina Green region. The distance between the Marina Green and Piers 30-32 may have simply been too great, so we are focusing our funds on where the fans want to be.”

While these changes may prove beneficial for the fans, at least one team isn’t too thrilled with the bait and switch. “I am sitting here completely stunned,” said Dean Barker, skipper for Emirates Team New Zealand. “We are a little over 6 months from relocating our base to San Fran to what we have been told would be a fully functioning base area complete with Team hospitality spaces and full access for the public to watch the teams preparing and launching their boats. It is now going to be a concrete slab with absolutely nothing on it which will now require us to secure cranes, jettys, and all services required to function. We have never budgeted for this and to be dropped on us now is quite unbelievable.”

Barclay admits this move will adversely affect the Kiwis, who were counting on the facilities at Piers 30-32 to stage an extensive hospitality program, but he clarifies that each team was already responsible for their share of the costs for the launching equipment needed. However, if some teams elect not to base themselves now at Pier 30-32, these costs will proportionately increase.

“I have to say we are a long long way from the vision presented to us back in September 2010,” adds Barker. “Larry Ellison has done a lot for this AC and has put a lot of his own financial resource into making the Americas Cup next year a big event. However, I think in terms of a lot of decisions made along the way by different people here we are with only 3 challengers and now no base facility to operate out of. This is a long way from the success of 2007 in Valencia no matter how you package it.

“The catamarans are great but the AC72’s are just way too expensive. Not only is the design and build of the new boats extreme, but then you need a small army just to launch and retrieve the boat each day let alone the work to maintain it.There is no question the AC72 racing next year will be spectacular. That is fortunate because the rest of the show looks to be well below expectations.”

– Craig Leweck, Scuttlebutt

COMMENT: Non-sailors might not know much about racing, but they are easily impressed when up close to the buzz of the fleet. The lack of foot traffic at Piers 30-32 in August may have had less to do with desire and more to do with transportation logistics. Given the longer schedule of the Louis Vuitton Cup (July 4 – Sept. 1) and America’s Cup (Sept. 7-22), it’s hard to imagine the promotion of a single venue for all team bases wouldn’t draw interest.

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