The America's Cup racing village opened today at San Francisco's Marina Green, where race organizers introduced the sailors who will participate in preliminary races this week for the international regatta.
Practice runs are under way this afternoon on the Bay. The America's Cup World Series races take place Wednesday through Sunday and involve 11 different boats representing eight teams.
San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee welcomed the sailors at a news conference this morning. He said residents are "going to see a level of excitement they've never seen" during the races, which will culminate in the America's Cup Finals in September 2013.
Lee said he expects tens of thousands of people to come out for the races, which are projected to bring about $1 billion in economic benefits to the Bay Area.
Iain Murray, CEO of the America's Cup Race Management, said the Bay's waters should prove "very exhilarating and testing" and that "we're in for a spectacular next five days."
Qualifying races begin Wednesday, followed by quarterfinals on Thursday and Friday, semifinals on Saturday and a final race on Sunday, Murray said.
John Kostecki, a tactician for Oracle Team USA, which won the last America's Cup in 2010 and chose San Francisco as the location for next year's finals, said he expects a lot of action this week along the race course, which spans about 2 miles.
"It's tough to navigate," Kostecki said of the route. "It's a tight race course and it will be very crowded."
He said spectators can expect to see collisions and capsized boats, noting that some of the boats have already capsized in practice runs in recent days when there was a lot more room to maneuver.
Kostecki grew up in San Rafael and has years of experience sailing in the Bay, but said he didn't think that would prove to be much of an advantage.
"All of these other teams have great sailors," he said. "They'll figure it out."
He said, "This event is long overdue here in San Francisco," calling it "a dream come true" to hold the races where he grew up.
Mayor Lee said race organizers and city officials plan to use this week's races as a test run of sorts to see where spectators like to gather and how best to get them to the waterfront for the races.
City and regional transit agencies are running additional bus and ferry service to the Marina Green.
"Anything to prevent people from trying to drive here," Lee said.
The America's Cup World Series will return to San Francisco again from Oct. 2-7 before heading to Italy in April and May 2013.
The regatta will then come back to San Francisco for the Louis Vuitton Cup between July 4 and Sept. 1, 2013, followed by the America's Cup Finals from Sept. 7-22, 2013.
More information about the races is available at www.americascup.com.
--Bay City News Service