Next installment of America's Cup World Series expected to draw record crowds

Beth Laberge/Special to the S.F. ExaminerPacking the piers: The America’s Cup World Series will coincide with Fleet Week this weekend

Record crowds are expected this week as the next leg of the America’s Cup World Series takes place on San Francisco Bay, beginning today and running through Sunday.

The racing will coincide with Fleet Week, which on its own usually draws about a half million spectators, according to ACWS officials. The conversion of the two events would likely make it the largest crowd ever to watch a sailing race in North America, possibly the world.

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If the series held in August is any indication, Team Oracle USA will have the support of most of the crowd, a boon defending champion Jimmy Spithill said gives a great boost to his team. He called himself a San Franciscan now, and spent the time in between events as an ambassador for the sport, taking athletes and celebrities out for rides on the Bay.

Now, however, it’s back to work.

With the weather significantly warmer than it was in August, this regatta will have a different feel than the previous one.

“It’ll change the race track,” Spithill said. “In the last regatta, I think everyone was set up for a lot of wind. Where here, there’s a good chance of the day being very light, and going to more of a European regatta setup. We haven’t sailed in that sort of configuration in a long, long time, so I think that will be sort of a shock for everyone.”

The weather is not the only change this time around. Skipper Nathan Outteridge, who finished third in August’s fleet racing with Team Korea, has moved over to Artemis Racing Red, replacing Santiago Lange and teaming up with Terry Hutchinson, who will lead Artemis Racing White.

Outteridge said the biggest challenge associated with the transition will be getting to know a new crew in time to perform well during the event, as he’d had just five days on the water with them before Tuesday’s practice round.
“I sort of have a bit of an idea how to race on the bay, but the toughest thing is racing with a new crew,” he said.

“I’ve never sailed with any of those guys before so we’ve got five days under our belt. Each day we’re learning something and progressing a bit further.”

Replacing Outteridge on Team Korea will be Peter Burling, who at age 21 becomes the youngest skipper in the America’s Cup fleet.

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