Saturday 10 December 2016

Golden Gate to move the earth with America's Cup

W M Nixon

Published 08/01/2011 | 05:00

Apart from the fact that its clubhouse was once badly damaged in an earthquake, the Golden Gate Yacht Club is a friendly sea-minded place where any Irish sailor would feel at home.

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By Irish standards, it's a new kid on the block -- it was founded as recently as 1939 -- but it has a can-do community spirit with which we can all readily identify.

The original headquarters were aboard a barge in San Francisco's marina and the members built the club cabin themselves. But they outgrew that and as the city marina developed they secured a prime position at the end of one of the piers, a superb location just 1.8 miles east of the Golden Gate Bridge itself.

Even that didn't go to their heads -- self-help and voluntary effort were still the keynotes of the club. So when the Loma Prieta Earthquake did enormous damage in 1989, and once the aftershocks were over, they set to rebuilding the clubhouse, improving it to create an impressive facility which is a very effective link between the city and sailing.

And as the club manager is Bob Mulhearn, you don't have to search very far to find links to Ireland as well.

But though the GGYC is typical of an admirable kind of sailing club which can be found worldwide, it is now unique in a very special way. This week, the world of sailing is getting accustomed to the idea that, in just two years' time, the Golden Gate will be hosting the pinnacle of sailing, the 34th America's Cup.

And the more we think of it, the better we like it. San Francisco is very much a sailing city. But it's sailing for participants rather than spectators and like many clubs in California, the GGYC is much involved in the state scheme whereby sailing can be part of the high school syllabus.

So as the world's oldest international sporting challenge settles into its new format using 72ft catamarans, the Frisco approach is just what's needed to move sailing up a notch in awareness and impact.

The scale of the regatta is planned at such a level that a new America's Cup area will be developed along the former commercial waterfront, but it will still be the GGYC which is central to it all.

And there's now a stronger US focus. At the end of 2010, BMW and Oracle announced that their successful partnership, which had wrested the America's Cup from Ernesto Bertarelli's Swiss team, was coming to an end.

BMW had achieved all their objectives and now Larry Ellison's Oracle team are totally in the driving seat, though by the time the series is being sailed there'll be dozens of high-end brands involved.

Around the Pacific rim, the fact that San Francisco has been selected is hugely important. New Zealanders are of course already much involved in many camps. Exporting top-grade talent for the international sailing challenges is a major Kiwi industry.

But now the Australians are flexing their AC muscles again, while Canada is looking very likely too. And across the Pacific there's the might of China. They've linked up with Ireland in the past but, with multi-hull experience now at a premium, a link-up with the nascent French challenge by the Peyron brothers is a strong possibility.

Suddenly, in fact, everything seems possible. Which is what you'd expect when all seaways lead to a club which started with a hut built by its members on a barge, and then called on them again to rebuild their clubhouse when it was flattened by an earthquake.

Seismic shifts? The Golden Gate Yacht Club members take them in their stride.

Irish Independent

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