When Larry Ellison won the America’s Cup in 2010 and chose San Francisco to host this year’s race, he predicted the event would bring more than $US1 billion to the city.
That prediction looks to have been wildly optimistic.
This year’s race has only four teams able to compete against Ellison’s expensive new boats. Along with lawsuits, crashes, cheating, disgruntled sponsors and the death of a well respected sailor — the crowds are not arriving as hoped.
None of that changes the fact these boats are changing the way people travel across the water, and technology like this is what Silicon Valley is famous for.
Regardless of the choppy controversy surrounding Team Oracle and the America’s Cup this year we wanted to get up-close and personal, and that’s exactly what we did when we spent a day with Ellison’s sailing team watching how they operate their incredible boats.
Everyone on Larry Ellison's 2013 America's Cup crew must pass the their boss' 2010 trophy-winning USA 17 boat to get into the building.
Even crew workouts are performed beneath the sail from the boat outside. The focus here is on winning September's upcoming race and little else.
Designed specifically for this year's race, two new America's Cup 72 (AC72) boats sit on their carriages farther back into the 1,000-foot-long warehouse.
The new boats are 27 feet shorter than the 2010 USA 17 but at up to $US10 million dollars each, they're over nine-and-a-half million dollars more expensive to produce.
Much of the boat is manufactured here on Pier 80 and workshops line the walls so repairs can be done without leaving the grounds.
The crew doesn't even leave here to eat breakfast or lunch and has its own dining room. Oracle sponsor Red Bull, provides all the energy beverage sailors can drink.
The first boat gets hauled outside about 6:30 a.m. and even in mid-July it's cool on the Bay, but crew keep busy with the vast amount of work needed to get on the water and do their job.
Pushed out beneath a crane, the crew secures a hook to the 3,0000 pound wing and it slowly lifts into the air.
Once the boat and wing are together, it's not long before the crew wraps up and climbs to the ground.
With more than 1,000 lifts and drops behind him by October 2012, the crane operator settles the boat on the water with barely a ripple.
The 30 breaths of emergency oxygen on everyone's back are a reminder how dangerous racing these new boats can be.
Artemis Racing's Andrew Simpson was killed in a May 9 AC72 crash and the memory is still fresh on most everyone's mind.
Team officials invited Business Insider aboard this boat to see how much work racing these new sailboats really is.
Racing preparations are still underway as the boat's towed from port and a crew-member hoists the triangular jib.
With full sails in place, the boat is towed the short distance into the Bay and gets ready to train in a trial race.
The crew know today will be full bore sailing as they face off against the New Zealand team who are favourite in the year's race
And doing it faster than their fiercest competitor is no small feat. The New Zealand team holds the AC72 speed record of almost 51 miles-per-hour.
The reason these boats break new speed records so often is due in large part to its series of foils.
This curved black foil is a daggerboard and Oracle tested various shapes to determine which worked best.
When each foil is balanced and at correct depth the result is fantastic -- 13,000 pounds careening along at almost 50-miles-per-hour above the choppy San Francisco harbor.
Achieving that precision is the job of 'grinders' who huddle in cockpits, cranking handles like mad to raise and lower the boat's daggerboards.
Careening downwind into a turn, an Oracle boat pitched nose first into the water last October. Wrecking a $US10 million boat is not how anyone wants to end their day.
An Oracle's sailor lifts about 17,000 pounds during an average training day, but the weight of all that could go wrong can weigh more than that.
It's no surprise that Oracle skipper Jimmy Spithill is the youngest ever winner of the America's Cup given the demands of his boat.
... But everyone on board needs to make the mad dash from one side to the other when sailing into the wind and manoeuvring turns.
The sails on these boats use flaps and trim like an aircraft wing to produce speeds three times greater than that of the wind.
The principles behind the sail are so similar to the wing of a plane that Spithill earned his pilot's licence to better understand the untapped potential of his cutting edge boat.
That potential proved not enough for some crew when they loaded their 45-foot vessel with with weight and forced to forfeit wins made over the past year.
No word yet on how Red Bull feels about what's being called cheating at the highest level of the sport.
Red Bull isn't the only sponsor not getting what they bargained for. Louis Vuitton is already demanding race officials return three of the $US10 million it paid for the LV Cup to bear its name.
From an expected 15 competitors only four will enter September's race and with limited entrants comes smaller crowds attending an elite sport with limited appeal.
Private fundraising expected to cover the additional $US22 million in security and infrastructure have also fallen short leaving taxpayers to foot the bill.
Out here, its all about winning another America's Cup and pushing the boat's limits at every turn despite the risks.
Plenty of tickets from $US35 apiece and yacht berthings costing tens of thousands of dollars remain available for the September finals.
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