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If you think watching sailing is less than exciting, think again. America’s Cup finals, a regatta legend, has landed back on US water for the first time in 18 years. San Francisco Bay is currently playing host to the world’s top 2 teams — Oracle Team USA and Emirates Team New Zealand — as they compete in the best-of-17 series that runs until September 21. Wearing lifejackets and helmets, these world-class sailors foil above the water and carve through massive white caps, led by their captains and tacticians to manipulate 72-foot catamarans. Not impressed? Here’s a video that might change your mind.

But this particular America’s Cup is even more intriguing than fast boats and a prestigious reputation. Oracle Team USA, the defending champions, started the regatta under major scrutiny, and so far it’s showing in the results.

Just days before America’s Cup started on September 7, an international jury fined Oracle $250,000 and slammed the team with a 2-race penalty. Why? In a cheating scandal dating back to an America’s Cup World Series warm-up event in 2012, the jury found a sailor and 2-dock crew guilty of adding lead pellets to the forward posts of a 45-foot catamaran. Yikes. It’s the most severe penalty ever dolled out in America’s Cup history and — fair or not — the fall out is such: USA must win 11 races to retain the trophy, and New Zealand only needs to win 9. So far, New Zealand has trounced team USA in every race but one. Perhaps USA will pull it together to keep the trophy from the Kiwis. But one thing’s certain: given the off-and-onshore drama, this is a regatta to watch. Here’s how.

America’s Cup Course Loop

The course races 2 loops across San Francisco Bay in a semi-figure-eight pattern from the Golden Gate Bridge past Alcatraz to the finish buoy in front of the Bay Bridge.

Where to Watch

You can glimpse the race from the viewing areas along the northern and eastern San Francisco waterfront. America’s Cup Village, located at Marina Green, has bleacher seating. Or, do what I did and head right to America’s Cup Park at Piers 27/29. This area lines up perpendicular with the finish buoy. Giant TV screens track the boats and provide pretty cool graphic images of wind analysis throughout the race. Watch the finish from the waterside railing behind the park, and hang around for the second race (2 run per race day). Grab a glass of Napa or Sonoma wine at one of the bars in the park areas and kick back on the faux grass with a mix of USA and New Zealand fans. Free entry.

 

By Patty Hodapp

Patty Hodapp is a freelance writer and solo traveler reporting from the intersection of fitness and adventure. Her slew of expat addresses runs deep — most recently, a tropical Spanish island in the Mediterranean. She covers endurance sports, outdoor gear and adventure travel. Besides Travel Channel, she has written for Outside, Men’s Fitness, Shape and several other publications.


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Photography by Neil Rabinowitz / Corbis / Aurora Photos

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