Racing the Hudson: The Big Race Arrives in the Big Apple

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The Louis Vuitton Cup race village setup at North Cove Marina in Manhattan’s Financial District.

The Louis Vuitton Cup race village setup at North Cove Marina in Manhattan’s Financial District.

It was a cloudy day in lower Manhattan as race fans, members of the media, event organizers and the America’s Cup sailors themselves gathered at Brookfield Place, across the street from the truly impressive One World Trade Plaza and the 9/11 Memorial, on the banks of the Hudson River. As the crowd settled down and the activities got underway, NBC Sports’ Bob Costas took the stage. “Now let’s welcome back to New York the oldest trophy in competitive sport, the America’s Cup,” Costas said as a white gloved man appeared at the top of the stage.

Fred Dickson, president and CEO of NYC and Co., was next up, welcoming the crowd on behalf of the city. “We’re thrilled to welcome the America’s Cup back to New York City for the first time in 96 years,” Dickson said. “Let’s hope it isn’t another 96 years before it comes back, let’s not forget that this trophy was basically nailed down in the New York Yacht Club.”

Bob Costas welcomes the crowd to the press conference.

Bob Costas welcomes the crowd to the press conference.

After a few other dignitaries and representatives gave their welcoming speeches, the real stars of the show, the skippers, took the stage: Nathan Outteridge from Artemis Racing, Sir Ben Ainslie from team Land Rover Bar, Glenn Ashby from Emirates Team New Zealand, Frank Cammas from Groupama Team France, Dean Barker from the newly formed SoftBank Team Japan and, of course the star of the show, Jimmy Spithill from Oracle Team USA.

“Jimmy, lets start with you,” Costas started out, “what do you think of sailing here in New York?”

“I don’t think you can get a better stadium than the Hudson river and what you’ve got right in front with the Manhattan skyline,” Spithill said of the course. “You’ve got some great ballparks and studios in this city, but one you’ve got that you haven’t noticed is this one right here. And it’s free.”

The skippers panel, from left: Nathan Outteridge from Artemis Racing, Sir Ben Ainslie from team Land Rover Bar, Jimmy Spithill from Oracle Team USA, Dean Barker from SoftBank Team Japan, Bob Costas from NBC Sports, Glenn Ashby from Emirates Team New Zealand and Frank Cammas from Groupama Team

The skippers panel, from left: Nathan Outteridge from Artemis Racing, Sir Ben Ainslie from team Land Rover Bar, Jimmy Spithill from Oracle Team USA, Dean Barker from SoftBank Team Japan, Bob Costas from NBC Sports, Glenn Ashby from Emirates Team New Zealand and Frank Cammas from Groupama Team

While the course is certainly a spectacular one in terms of scenery, surrounded by the Manhattan skyline on one side of you, the buildings of Jersey City on the other, the bridges of and the Statue of Liberty—the Hudson river has its own share of difficulties. “The wind is pretty good right now running down the river, but If we get the wind coming between the skyscrapers it is going to be a bit of a minefield out there,” Spithill said. “But everyone is in for the same thing, no one has an advantage.”

Another issue that the teams will be facing are the conditions of the notoriously polluted Hudson river. One spectator asked the skippers how they planned to account for plastic bags and other debris that might be found in the water. “They’re going to clean up the Hudson the same way they’ll clean up Rio,” Costas chimed in. “Don’t worry about it, it’ll all be fine.”

Oracle sits at rest in North Cover Marina

Oracle sits at rest in North Cover Marina

“It is certainly going to be an issue,” said Sir Ben Ainslie. “People joke about the conditions of Rio for sailing, but really the racing environment that we’re in, we need to clean it up and try to take responsibility.”

Changing to a more lighthearted note, the final question came up—how would the skippers celebrate if they win, given that they're in New York?

“With lots of wine and cheese,” was the response from Groupama Team France’s Frank Cammas.

“It’s certainly a plus coming to New York if you want to party and have fun,” said Spithill. “So if we’re fortunate enough to win we’re going out with a bang, celebrate really … heavily … and possibly miss our flight.”

All in all, if the weather holds, it should be one hell of a weekend racing on the Hudson.

Photos by Christopher White

May 2016

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