The following article was found today on www.signonsandiego.com, and written by Bill Center
Sailboat racing as a stadium sport comes to San Diego Bay this week with the inaugural RC-44 championship regatta.
The five-day event starts Wednesday and concludes next Sunday and will feature 11, high-performance RC-44 sloops.
While most San Diegans have no idea what an RC-44 is and who is actually racing, although one of the favored boats is owned by Larry Ellison of Oracle America’s Cup fame, the regatta will give event the most land-locked among us a chance to see close-quarter sailboat racing.
All the starts — and finishes — during the racing will be just off the end of the Broadway Pier.
Depending on the direction of the wind and the day of the racing, the courses will take the boats up along the Embarcadero or toward Harbor Island.
“I think this promises to be an exciting event even for those not into sailboat racing,” said John Laun, the president and CEO of the SEA San Diego responsible for bringing the RC-44s — and eventually other sailing events — to San Diego Bay. “The boats will be big enough to see from the shore because they are going to be close to shore. And the boats are exciting. They are very high-tech and very demanding to sail. They are capable of reaching speeds of 20 knots.”
And rather than sailing away from the shore, the RC-44s will be racing on very short courses close to the bayfront. Wednesday’s match races, for example, will likely be contested on a half-mile course with pairs going off every five minutes. The twice-around windward-leeward races (that’s back-and-forth for rank novices) will last around 20 minutes. And race officials are hoping to get in as many as four rounds starting at 11:30 a.m.
The program switches to fleet races Thursday through Sunday with each leg being 1 1/4 miles for a five-mile race. Officials expect the races to take 45 minutes apiece with hopes of getting in three to five rounds each day.
The 11 boats entered will represent nine nations. For those more knowledgeable of sailing, the list of skippers reads like a Who’s Who. Among the world-class skippers entered are Russell Coutts, the hero of New Zealand’s America’s Cup victory off San Diego in 1995, Paul Cayard, Coronado native Rod Davis, Kevin Burnham and Morgan Larson.
The series champion in 2010 was Oracle Racing featuring Ellison and Coutts.
Prime viewing areas will be the tip of the Broadway Pier, the Embarcadero (for Wednesday’s match races) and Harbor Island (for the longer fleet races Thursday through Sunday).
Perhaps the best viewing spot will be the flight deck of the Midway Museum. The viewing area will be free with a paid admission to the carrier museum.
What better way to spend a day?
•Five Olympic class boats numbering San Diegans as either the skipper or crew have been included on the US Sailing Team for 2011. The team includes at least two boats in each Olympic class. The Star class has a pair of boats skippered by San Diegans Andrew Campbell (Ian Coleman crew) and George Szabo (Mark Strude). San Diego’s Graham Biehl is crewing for Stu McNay on the top-ranked U.S. Men’s 470 boat while the San Diego team of Adam Roberts and Nick Martin are ranked second. San Diego’s Molly Vandemoer joins Debbie Capozzi as the crew for top-ranked Anna Tunnicliffe in the Women’s Keelboat class.