Does The City need the America's Cup or does the America's Cup need The City?
The Summer of Racing along the waterfront is quickly turning into the Summer of Agonizing Boredom and the final two rounds of the Louis Vuitton Cup promise to be as lifeless as the first 30 days of “competition.”
In July, we saw nine solo races, two blowouts and two contests where Luna Rossa Challenge failed to finish in the required time. At this point, we're still a month away from the main event and the Giants look like they have a better chance of winning the National League West than Luna Rossa or Artemis Racing has of mounting a challenge against Emirates Team New Zealand in the Louis Vuitton Cup finals.
The only intriguing question right now is whether Artemis, which just launched its new boat two weeks ago, can compete with Luna Rossa, a team that's been swallowing water in New Zealand's wake for a month, in the semifinals, which start Tuesday.
Without getting into the 8,000 jobs and the $1.2 billion pledged to the local economy, the America's Cup is a failure simply because it's not competitive and boring. It isn't giving spectators the riveting experience that organizers promised 2½ years ago.
In fact, the regatta's only saving grace right now is the spectacular backdrop The City's skyline, the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz are providing the towering 72-foot catamarans as they zip through the course without contest. Ironic, considering the bombast we heard from organizers as they twisted The City's arm to sweeten the deal in December 2010.
If you recall, CEO Stephen Barclay and Oracle's Larry Ellison had threatened to turn down The City's bid and award the event to Newport, R.I., or Italy if it didn't meet a list of financial demands.
“If you want a headline, it's San Francisco snatched defeat from the jaws of victory,” Barclay told the San Francisco Chronicle. “San Francisco had it in their hands, and they progressively let it go.”
They convinced us that losing the event would be a colossal fumble. Then-Mayor Gavin Newsom called hosting the America's Cup a “once-in-a-lifetime” opportunity, others said that losing it would be a disaster.
In hindsight, it couldn't have been more of a disaster than what we've seen so far, especially when the America's Cup needed The City to launch itself as a TV sport on the NBC Sports Network.
With new boats that can hit 50 mph, organizers are trying to turn sailing into NASCAR on water and they needed The City's breathtaking scenery to give the home viewer a visually stunning experience.
But organizers miscalculated with the AC72s, which proved to be too fast, too expensive and too dangerous. They only drew three challengers, so the Louis Vuitton Cup is a snoozer and, honestly, it's more enjoyable to spend a summer day at Outside Lands, the Presidio or AT&T Park.
Now, Barclay is saying that it's all about the America's Cup Finals in September and he might be sincere. But if it turns out to be a dud, The City won't collapse. San Franciscans don't need NASCAR on the Bay to enjoy rich and memorable summers.
Paul Gackle is a contributor to The San Francisco Examiner. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on Twitter @GackleReport.