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Spectating tips for ACWS San Diego
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The Publisher
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Nov 14, 2011, 11:00 AM

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If you were coming to San Diego...
November 9, 2011

Attending sporting events is risky business. When to get there? Where to park? Where to sit? So what do you do with an event that has never been held before? You wing it, which is what spectators will be doing in San Diego for the third stop in the inaugural America's Cup World Series (AWS) on November 12-20, 2011.

Here are some tips to help enjoy the experience:

Schedule:
The first weekend has mandatory practice races. No races are scheduled for Monday and Tuesday, but expect the teams to either be on the bay for practice or in the pit for prep. The planned competition is Wednesday through Sunday, so expect bigger crowds those days too. Click here for details.

Transportation:
For car parking, a pay lot is a block away from the Event Village and there are coin meter spaces on the adjacent street. However, get there early to avoid getting shut out. Safer options could be to use bikes, pedicabs or taxis, or drive to a San Diego Trolley station and take the train to the downtown station a couple of blocks away. Click here for details.

Viewing:
Specatator boats will be kept approximately 50-60 meters from the course boundaries. Click here for details. Watching the races from the Midway Museum, Navy and Broadway piers are closest to the course, but there may not be bleachers so prepare to stand in crowds (or buy a VIP package). The ends of the race course are adjacent to G Street Marina and Harbor Island, which both have limited parking and space to sit. Hot tip is to have lunch at The Fish Market (nice) and Top of the Market (nicer) at the leeward marks (SE of Navy Pier), or at C Level (nice) and Island Prime (nicer) near the windward marks on Harbor Island. Click here for details. Another hot tip is to listen to race commentary from the broadcast on your iOS mobile device (see below).

Entertainment:
The AC Village has closed Harbor Drive at Broadway and Navy Piers, and will be hosting live music, DJ's and local California cuisine and shops and specialty stands. The village will have a large screen for race viewing, plus host interactive entertainment such as the America's Cup Experience, a racing simulator that offers a taste of what it's like to sail on a high-speed catamaran. Prize giving and team interviews will be on the village stage. Hours are 10a-6p on Nov. 12-15 and 10a-10p on Nov. 16-20. To enter the AC Village, there is a requested $10 donation to support the AC Healthy Ocean Project. Click here for details.

Weather:
Despite the propaganda from San Diego Convention and Tourism Bureau, it does begin to get colder and wetter in November. And winter winds are hit or miss. The forecast currently calls for rain and big breeze on the first weekend, with clearing skies and calmer winds expected through the week.

Broadcast:
The America’s Cup YouTube channel will be streaming the event live online Nov. 16-20. Look for the broadcast schedule to begin 30 minutes before racing begins each day (see schedule above). And for the first time, there will be live streaming to iOS mobile devices through the AC YouTube channel. Also, a recap of the event will be broadcast on the Versus cable channel on November 22 at 5:00 P.M. ET. Streaming live here: http://www.youtube.com/user/AmericasCup

Preview:
Teams began training on Tuesday, and the America's Cup World Series Event Village will be open to the public on Wednesday, Nov 9th. Get an insider's look of the village after 3:30 pm and you'll also get to see the AMERICA'S CUP TROPHY. Unveiling the trophy will be Tom Ehman, Vice Commodore of Golden Gate Yacht Club, who will be joined by Ian Murray, Bruno Trouble, and Terry Hutchinson for 'Cupdates' at 4:00 pm (youth sailors) and 5:30 pm (open). No RSVP necessary.




The Publisher
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Nov 14, 2011, 11:06 AM

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Is San Diego proving to be a great spectator venue for the America's Cup World Series? Yes and no. The views of the AC45 boats in the village are ideal, but you have to have your smarts on to closely watch the racing.

Wind direction is a big variable as mark location dictates the better viewing locations. Normal wind direction is between south and west. Information is another hurdle. The event twitter feed can send twitter or text updates to your phone, while the live streaming broadcast will be available on iOS mobile devices (ie, iPhones).

During the races on Sunday (Nov. 13), I rode my bike along the bay to assess the non-VIP spectating options from east to west. Here is my review:

Seaport Village:
This tourism hub provides plenty of visitor options, but a northwesterly is needed for race viewing to be one of them. This is the leeward mark location, but if the wind has any left to it, the marks are out of view. Plus, you're at the end of the course, looking upwind toward the sun. Not the best choice, but there is customer parking. Bring chair if desired. Restrooms available. Binoculars needed.

G Street Marina:
This site has several areas to sit. Better with West to NW winds but adequate with a southwesterly. Could be the spot when other areas are too crowded. Bring chair if desired. Parking is metered. No restrooms or food concessions but adjacent to restaurant. Binoculars needed.

The Fish Market/Top of the Market:
Located in the G Street Marina, the restaurant was packed on Sunday. Get there early for bayside table views. Better with West to NW winds but adequate with a southwesterly. Customer parking. Binoculars needed.

USS Midway Museum:
You have to pay the entrance fee ($18 adult/$10 youth), but hard to beat the elevation of one of America’s longest-serving aircraft carriers. While the course end of the ship is reserved for VIP functions, there is standing room along the side to view. Best views in SW winds. And when you're tired of viewing, you can visit a very cool museum. Park at nearby lots. Restrooms available. Food concessions nearby. Binoculars helpful.

Navy Pier:
Adjacent to the museum, this provides one of the few guaranteed good locations, though leeward mark will be out of sight in a westerly. Get there early with chair or prepare to stand in a deep crowd. Will overcrowd. Park at nearby lots. Restrooms and food concessions nearby. Binoculars helpful.

Event Village:
Beginning Wednesday, a large screen will host the live broadcast and commentary, while the beer garden and food concessions will host your other needs. Park at nearby lots. Restrooms available.

Broadway Pier:
This is the hub of the event, with the course location always close. Overall best viewing, though leeward mark will be out of sight in a westerly. Only venue with audio commentating - a vital component. Bleachers will be on the pier for the ACWS, but get there early as crowds will be big. No chairs as safety barrier blocks view. Area also includes Exploratorium and Healthy Ocean Project Exhibits. Park at nearby lots. Restrooms and food concessions nearby. Binoculars helpful.

Harbor Island:
The upwind marks should be nearby in most wind directions to provide good viewing, and it is easy enough to see the boats despite being at one of the course. The biggest problem is no convenient parking, but complete defiance of red curb areas on Sunday provided some of the best viewing of the day. Bring chair if desired. No restrooms. No food concessions. Binoculars needed.

C Level/ Island Prime:
At the east end of Harbor Island, this venue was awesome on Sunday, with both indoor and outdoor dining plus a bar along the course edge. Most tables had views. Customer parking. Binoculars helpful.

It was an easy bike ride along this route where each venue provided a different experience. Another option are any hotels along the harbor with rooftop bars. And if you want to avert crowd hurdles alltogether, consider the VIP options.

VIP information: http://www.americascup.com/en/Events/2011-2012-world-series/2011-san_diego-usa/Fan-Zone/
Event details: http://www.americascup.com/en/Events/2011-2012-world-series/2011-san_diego-usa/Fan-Zone/

- Craig Leweck, Scuttlebutt




The Publisher
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Nov 22, 2011, 2:18 PM

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From Robert Johnston, New York City:
After four days on the spectator pier at (America's Cup World Series in San
Diego), I can offer a couple of comments from the spectators' point of
view.

First off, clearly extraordinary sailing and excellent commentary with
tremendous popular accessibility. But if you're going to have a stadium,
why not a scoreboard? For all the high tech in the racing, the only
leaderboard around is decidedly low tech, essentially an ordinary (print)
bulletin board back in the village, tended by a gofer on foot with paste-on
labels and updated well after the close of racing. I would think
well-designed real-time scoreboards could be positioned all over the
village and viewing areas for instant reporting of progress in each race
(mainly timings at marks), results and standings.

Second, the much bemoaned dilution of the nationality rules and takeover of
corporate interests to the point of making the boats floating (or flying!)
billboards, may be here to stay, but this is still nominally a friendly
competition among nations, isn't it? You'd never know that as most of the
boat names have become increasingly opaque. The boats still carry national
flags but most spectators can't make them out (virtual TV coverage adds
them on top of each top) and commentary doesn't usually mention them unless
they are part of the boat name. Why not require that they should be? Some
boats still do, and Emirates Team New Zealand has certainly established
itself with solid brand recognition for both corporate sponsor and country.
For most casual spectators, how do they know who to root for, or against?


The Publisher
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Nov 22, 2011, 2:19 PM

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From Mal Emerson:

Robert and I might well have been shoulder to shoulder in San Diego for the series, and I totally agree with his want of a scoreboard system accessible to spectators.

Yacht racing is a difficult spectator sport even to a racer but particularly to the prospective non-sailing fan. Perspectives are difficult, the concept of upwind being a lead position on the upwind and downwind on the downwind being a leading position all make it tough to see who's where. In a parade of boats, the lead boat may not be and it confuses the new viewer.

Lifts, headers, pressure, leverage and their effects on who is leading are tough from the pier or a boat. The best spectating I ever did was AC 2000 when on a boat with the video, graphics and commentary on a big screen and the boats visible through binoculars over my shoulder. Obviously not for the faint of wallet. The ACWS could easily make this sort of viewing available to everybody.

I was duly impressed with the new format and am a rabid fan and enjoyed every minute but have to say they may have missed the boat in many opportunities to acquire new fans. From the end of Broadway pier, you could barely hear short snippets of the commentary. There was no big screen like near the stage and no indication of the lead until it could be clearly observed at a mark or a crossing. How much could it cost to fix those things in the grand scheme of things?

There was plenty of room to observe from the cruise ship pier but with a ship there it was closed to the public. It would have been quite simple to separate the ship from the spectators and use the end of that pier as well.

While I totally understand reserving prime space for teams, the press, VIP's and paying spectators; it shouldn't be blatant and it shouldn't excessively limit the casual observer who is a potential fan. The end of the team pier was a good example. The higher platform should have been used by the teams and press and the whole end of that pier for the public. Access to the "pits" could have been improved as well.

I am a firm believer in swag. Nothing advertises an event like hats and T shirts. It should be plentiful, varied and cheap. It wasn't. America's Cup and Oricle hats could be had, like the model T, in any color you wanted as long as it was black and they ran out before the event did. Artimus has some swag available and, beyond that, there was nothing else that I could see.

I also totally support national identity but understand the global nature of sailing. I do think, however, that national identity is quite clear with either a flag on top of the wing, on the hull side or both. Also folks from the countries represented won't be confused. The only problem might be the fan who wants to root against a particular team and who cares about him anyway?

Someone assembled a really good history of the Cup in San Diego, in poster form clearly presented on the way to the viewing area on Broadway Pier. A similar set for the overall history of the Cup would really help with the unfamiliar fans. Obviously the longest running sporting event in history carries quite a lot of weight in its own rite. The Cup, the deed, personalities, the history of the boats and how they came about .... absolutely fascinating. New fans are to be made with that colorful history. The event program was excellent in covering the current event and the '87 loss to the Aussies but that and, "the 10 things you didn't know about the America's Cup", though also superb, begs for more and a more prominent billing.

Thanks to race management for expressing the speeds in knots; now if they'd just bring back the cannon.

I hope this doesn't sound too much like sour grapes, the event was superbly run. Everything from schedule to course set up and management to the awards ceremonies was done extremely well and I enjoyed it immensely. I'm trying hard to talk myself out of a trip to Italy in the spring.




The Publisher
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Nov 23, 2011, 7:12 AM

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From Vince Casalaina:
Commenting on the America's Cup World Series in San Diego, I was disappointed in the amount of AV that was available outside the Broadway Pier (audio only) and the Garden area (AV but you could not see the live racing if you were watching this screen).

During the racing, I ran into lots of people who were watching the boats in areas along the waterfront but they had little idea what was going on. There seemed to be no audio commentary available to them and certainly no video feed unless they had brought their iPad and broadband hotspot with them.

I know it's a question of money, but a few big screens in strategic places along the waterfront plus live commentary & program books to buy so people could get a little background on the event while waiting between races would have drawn a lot more people into the fold.

I hope there will be a lot more of that sort of AV support available in San Francisco when the boats race next summer.


The Publisher
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Nov 23, 2011, 1:48 PM

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From Frank Gazzano:
Overall I would think the America's Cup race village, venue, and event were consistent with the goals of introducing the ACWS to a more broader audience. I parked my boat on the course one day and felt the stake boats did a good job of managing the small spectator fleet, but that was probably a unique view for those watching the event. The race village was the epicenter and for a $10 donation the access to the boats, crew, viewing areas, beer garden, video screen, bands, and ocean awareness display was a tremendous value and extremely well done. If you’ve ever been to a Formula One race you know how bad you can be fleeced at such international events.

My only two complaints about where the organizers fell short are:

Communications - there was a lack of information in advance on where you could view from the water, the race village attractions, and even on Friday before the event the information booth didn’t have a clue as to what would be going on and said the organizers hadn’t told them anything.

Team Marketing - having not been fleeced with an exorbitant entry fee or $16 slice of pizza (only $4.50), I had cash in my wallet and was ready to buy memorabilia. There was a trailer with some America’s Cup products like towels, coffee cups, etc. but the only team products were from Oracle and Artemis. At an international event, the organizer needs to insure the teams promote themselves to draw fans, create favorites, establish rivalries, and have someone to cheer for. You don’t go to a sporting event and be indifferent about who wins or loses. And with some reluctance I say this...if you want to attract American fans the announcer shouldn’t have a British accent. It felt more like down under than San Diego.


The Publisher
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Nov 23, 2011, 2:25 PM

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From Paul Warren, Redington Beach, FL:
I agree completely with your readers Vince Casalaina and Mal Emerson, Scuttlebutt 3476, re the San Diego ACWS regatta. Like the other Scuttlebutt observers, I spent eight days in San Diego watching the event, both landside and on-the-water.

The racing was exciting: there was lots of action - packed mark roundings, near collisions, and several substantial lead changes. But, it was understandable only if you were/are an experienced sailboat racer who understood all the intricacies of catamarans, wing sails, fleet racing, match racing, and race course layouts. Otherwise, the novice, I think, is left bewildered.

“Stadium sailing” is all well and good if you were a knowledgeable viewer. For the neophyte, there was no real explanatory description of the action, no introduction to the art of sailing (windward/leeward, upwind/downwind, match racing tactics, etc.). I agree completely that the audio-visual component of the landside spectator experience needs to be UPGRADED! Site-specific commentators, describing the racing for each location, might be a good solution. Or, more simply, just install “jumbo-tron” style TVs with the live commentary feed at all the landside viewing locations. (Other events do this on a regular basis. Why not the AC?)

Another observation: landside viewing was not optimized to make spectators comfortable and, thus, keep them on-the-scene for longer times. Spectators were forced to stand in crowds for the duration, unless they brought their own chairs and got front-row locations. Additional tiered bleachers would have been helpful. If AC organizers needed to fund the cost of said bleachers, why not sell the seating sponsorship to a company looking for product sampling opportunities. They’d have a “captive” audience who would probably be willing (I would) to complete a brief market research survey in exchange for free seating to watch in relative comfort. “Stadium sailing” should have some semblance of a stadium!

The live TV commentary was expert, involving and enhancing. However, I know many avid racing sailors who haven’t yet been incented to tune in to YouTube or other ACTV outlets to see the live action and/or the replays. This is NOT a good way to attract potential sponsors to the event.

The ACEA is obviously on a steep learning curve with these events. They did a very good job with the San Diego event, but there’s still a lot of room for improvement.


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