San Francisco was the venue of the biggest come-from-behind victory in the history of the America’s Cup when Oracle Team USA beat Emirates Team New Zealand in 2013, so it seems only fitting that the first American round of Larry Ellison’s new SailGP pro sailing series will be held there. Over the weekend of May 4-5, six modified AC50 foiling cats capable of speeds approaching 50 knots will do battle on the bay.
The brainchild of Ellison and Oracle Team USA CEO Russell Coutts, the SailGP format loosely mirrors what the Oracle team had in mind for the Cup had they retained it in Bermuda last year—a regular pro circuit to get the spectacular AC50 foilers in front of crowds around the world. Thwarted by the Kiwis’ victory and subsequent decision to revert to monohulls, Ellison and Coutts were undaunted and soon came up with a way to keep the big cats flying.
There were only a few months between the announcement of the series—in which teams from the United States, Great Britain, Australia, China, Japan and France would compete in (initially) five races—and the first event, in Sydney, Australia. Now the foiling circus comes to San Francisco in early May, and then New York on June 21-22, before heading to Cowes, England, and Marseille, France, for the final races in August and September.
The U.S. team, skippered by America’s Cup and Volvo race veteran Rome Kirby and boasting an average age of 26, are the underdogs in this event; they finished last in the Sydney round, which was won by an Australian team packed with America’s Cup talent. But all the teams were still learning the quirks of the new F50s, which, though based on the same platforms as the AC50s that competed in Bermuda, have been heavily modified, with new foil and wing control systems. The addition of battery packs means the boats can also now be sailed by just five crew, with no need for human power to “push oil” for the hydraulics.
Tickets for the San Francisco race village, grandstands and spectator boats are now on sale through sailgp.com.