At the America's Cup village on Marina Green, bleacher tickets cost $70, $110, or $120. That expenditure makes even less sense than the $10.50 drafts of Peroni; you can wander in front of the bleachers — and get a better vantage point of the action — for free. Not surprisingly, the bleachers are largely devoid of humanity.

The sad truth is, as an in-person spectator sport, yachting makes a great televised sport. "I have never seen so few boats watching an America's Cup," penned sailing commenter Gary Jobson on Monday on Sail-World.com. "I spoke at a local yacht club here ... I asked why more boats were not out on the bay. Several people at my table said, 'It's better watching on television.'"

The AC72s' power and grace are mitigated by distance. From the shore they resemble two ungainly cartoon sharks tracing figure-eights on the water. Without a television or iPad handy, you can't even tell who's winning. "I've been to every America's Cup since 1980, and raced boats. I understand what I'm looking at," says Livingston. And, from the shore, "I can't tell you what's going on."

AP Photo/Eric Risberg
No matter where you're sitting, the best view of the America's Cup is always on a television.
Evan DuCharme
No matter where you're sitting, the best view of the America's Cup is always on a television.

But it is, unabashedly, fantastic television. The high-definition cameras emphasize the velocity of the boats and constant motion of the sailors. The graphics — which require scads of military-grade GPS equipment, a NASA-like control room, and three helicopters hovering over the course — make sense of the morass. The boats creak and groan, emitting ominous noises reminiscent of Moby-Dick breaching the Pequod.

No surprise, then, that spectators at Marina Green gravitate to the massive TVs. This leads to the odd scenario of viewers glued to the screens, watching boats clearly visible behind them. Fans are so besotted with the televisions that, during a recent race, half a dozen of them managed to absent-mindedly wander into the same mud puddle while watching the coverage. This televised spectacle, which Ellison funded lavishly to develop and purchase airtime for, garnered about 1 million American viewers in the early going. As the races grew better, however, coverage shifted to more obscure channels, cutting viewership to between 100,000 and 250,000. Sans a yacht-enamored billionaire, none of these viewership totals justifies the massive costs currently required to televise regattas. So, barring far more advertising or far lower overhead, Ellison et al. will have to be satisfied that they have created the world's greatest infomercial.

Onboard the Kiwi hospitality boat, there is palpable desperation. The Kiwis pull ahead — though you'd never know without the in-house technician and an expert race commenter — and a cacophony of hoots and shouting ensue. Hands are wrung. Talismans are fondled. Beers are stockpiled. "Come on you boys!" shrieks a woman in an All-Blacks jersey.

New Zealand's lead dwindles. From 157 meters it's reduced to 60, then, 45, then a mere 28 meters. This comes even as the Kiwis blast upwind at a ludicrous 32 knots. The lead drops to 15 meters, and everyone starts drinking.

One day prior, in what may yet emerge as the hallmark image of this Cup, New Zealand's yacht nearly capsized, tottering awkwardly on one hull for a full 10 seconds before righting. On a catamaran, any hull angle past 45 degrees will likely ensure a wipeout. The technician aboard the hospitality boat says his equipment measured Team New Zealand's angle at 44.8 degrees.

That's how close the Kiwis came to wrecking their boat and pissing away the Cup right then and there. It's the little things that add up in the end.

The Kiwis will certainly be thinking about large numbers of little things for many years to come.

But not on this day. They pull out of a dead heat with Oracle and extend their lead to 100 meters. Then 190. Then 330.

And then they win.

There is jubilation on this vessel. A venture capitalist who, not long before, had been bragging about how "we've got the Chinese interested" in some big-shot deal dances a jig like a happy little boy.

Rougher seas were in store.

But not on this day. And, in order to foresee that, well, you'd have to be an oracle.

The Emirates Team New Zealand yacht cuts along the waterfront for a victory lap. It passes in front of the sun and, in silhouette, the city's skyline briefly appears to be graced with one more tower. But this tower moves on.

And, regardless of the victor, so may the America's Cup.

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10 comments
Buylo
Buylo

Events such as these has become a huge marketing opportunity for all companies alike, from big brand names to online shops. It definitely has its perks and cons though. At least the sport is growing, which is always good

szcondon1
szcondon1

Cheers to Oracle Team USA and their outrageous prowess and comeback to win the America's Cup. No sense crying over spilled almond milk. What's done is done. Monies lost or earned, this was a great sporting event. I attended almost all of the LV Cup, Red Bull Jrs. AC, and the AC races from both the Marina Green and AC Pavilion venues. I had a blast and enjoyed spending money for overpriced champagne and Oracle clothing. I even scored three bleacher seats from Andy, one of the sportscasters, for being interviewed on AC TV. I took friends and family there. I'd do it again in a heartbeat even knowing this information presented in your article. SF is a great city, a top travel destination in the world according to Condé Nast Magazine. We will recover. Now that we know some of the errors made by our left-leaning politicians, we can hopefully correct those errors. Hip-Hip-Hooray to Oracle Team USA!

Bigg Shelf
Bigg Shelf

I cant stand a cheat or a thief...they have NO integrity.....teach your kids that. Team Oracle

Natalie Jarman
Natalie Jarman

Ok, even as a San Francisco native born and bred, I personally was rooting for the Kiwis. The shyster evil Ellison antics all play out like a telenovella or Shakespeare play,despicable and embarrassing, greed ridden in a city that presumably was all about the independent spirit and frightfully has bought into nothing but complete corporate saturation. BUT in the end give the sailors credit, they did win even after penalized, a lot can be learned after this mad/sad experiment but let's celebrate for our city that this tragedy had actually turned around and become a moralistic tale that we all can learn from.

Dina Becerra
Dina Becerra

How does a team stay in the race, let alone win it if they were caught cheating? I know they were penalized two points but it seems weird for a sport to allow cheating.

aliasetc
aliasetc topcommenter

Fuck Larry Ellison scumbag cheating motherfucker

mblaircheney
mblaircheney topcommenter

Required reading for anyone with an interest in America's Cup.

I am an ardent supporter of the races on San Francisco Bay, I believe we are seeing history take shape before our very eyes... but Joe steadfastly shows an objectivity to the event and takes it apart piece by piece.

Surprisingly, his description of the mechanics of the sailboats on the water, are better than those who write as Cup cheerleaders. Without a doubt there is a keen understanding of the achievement... but... not allowing it to blind him to the overwhelming problems.

Others have questioned the event, no one has nailed it like this.

Normally I try to counter when I hear any negative thoughts on the races... Point taken.

aliasetc
aliasetc topcommenter

Great article, but Larry is still an asshole scumbag and Gavin Nosense is another asshole, and Ed Lee is an incompetent pimp trying to hustle the City.

A question, since most of the sailers on both boats are Kewis, could the races been fixed from the get go? Larry can buy off anyone no matter what the prie!

 
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