A warm-up regatta for next June’s America’s Cup Race in Bermuda took place in New York Harbor May 7 -8, marking the first time an America’s Cup event had been held in the city since 1920.
Six teams hailing from the U.S., England, France, Japan, New Zealand and Sweden raced 50-foot catamarans in a series of short races up and down a stretch of the harbor between Chambers and Rector Streets.
The 165-year-old sailing contest, which began as a yacht race the Brits challenged the Yanks to around the Isle of Wight (Yanks won), has evolved into the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series, a succession of races that culminates in the America’s Cup Championship every four years.
Lousy with class privilege, the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series is hugely aspirational, so it made good PR sense to base the event village (team gear, sailing accessories, Moet champagne) in front of the Brookfield Place Waterfront Plaza luxury brand mall.
The America’s Cup is a test of sailing skill, yacht design, and fund-raising prowess — somebody’s got to pony up the $100 million dollars required to compete for “The Auld Mug.” The Hudson’s choppy, dun-colored waters are a far cry from Bermuda’s turquoise baby bath so the publicity payoff a comeback to New York Harbor promised had to be pretty sweet. But like the Rio Olympians required to swim in favela run-off, the elite yachting crews that scrambled around the boats and occasionally got washed off were probably a bit skeeved.
Water quality aside, the Hudson is a working river and one can only marvel at the skill of the fixers who managed to divert hundreds of ferries, tugs, barges and cargo vessels to accommodate the race, which got off to a slow start on Sunday when I watched from the sidelines, picking up speed dramatically in time for the 2:00 p.m. starting time. Aided by the Hudson’s famously rapid current, the boats ultimately raced near the 40 mph speeds they were designed for.
Touted as one of the most exciting events to hit the harbor in recent memory —which it probably was for those sipping nautical-themed cocktails aboard the Manhattan Yacht Club’s floating clubhouse, “Willy Wall,” anchored just north of Ellis Island — it was a bit baffling for those of us packed three-deep along the benches and tree planters of Battery Park.
I think this clip, from a very different context, nicely sums up the average New Yorker’s take on yacht racing in the Hudson: