Imagination Rewarded

Before they entered a contest to design a student pavilion for the America’s Cup Village, not one of the San Francisco high schoolers involved had ever heard of this thing called an America’s Cup. No hands went up when we asked. Beyond the (usually) happy bubble that sailing fanatics inhabit, that’s not uncommon. That’s the starting point for the organizers of America’s Cup 34 on their mission to grow sailing in every dimension, from big-time media to the grass roots communities of the wonderful, fractious, often wacky and always radically-multicultural Republic of San Francisco.

But there are ways to get through. Entries will be judged this Sunday in the 42nd Annual High School Design Competition of the Architectural Foundation of San Francisco. Let’s be clear: The contest is conceptual; these are not structures we expect to see built. But the winner in each of four categories will win a very real boatride on what is, until the Cup boats come to town, the fastest catamaran on San Francisco Bay. A 40-footer owned by the co-founder and vice chair of the America’s Cup Organizing Committee, Peter Stoneberg. The prize is his personal gift–to the kids, to the event, and to the cause. Here is Shadow cranked up . . .

Photo by Erik Simonson,

The America’s Cup Event Authority is contributing a judge to the judging panel plus a one-month summer internship with the ACEA’s event, design and communications team. The students represent some of the best (mostly public) high schools in the city, and this is only a beginning, but you have to start somewhere. When I talked to the kids at a warm-up session, introducing the contest, I started off the way I like to, whenever I talk in public about the Cup. I described that upstart Yankee schooner going off before the eyes of the world, to England, to the first-ever world’s fair, to represent American technology at a time when a sailing vessel embodied the ultimate in technology and national pride. A time when Britain ruled an empire because Britannia ruled the waves. With newspapers in New York City running editorials saying, Don’t go. You’ll embarrass the whole country. I described how, instead of embarrassing us all, the upstart schooner whipped the entire fleet of the Royal Yacht Squadron. “Churchbells rang, headlines screamed all across our young republic,” I said, with maybe just a touch of hyperbole, “because they had the gall to name that boat—America. The America’s Cup is part of our heritage. It is a national treasure that we share with the world.”

And I looked at my audience, and they . . . were . . . all . . . Asian.

Almost all.

Which sorta puts the heat on defining our national heritage, doesn’t it?

But San Francisco is as ever the gateway to the Orient. San Francisco has a Chinese-American mayor and a Chinese-American chairman of the Board of Supervisors. AC34 has entries from China and South Korea. And AC34 is about changing everything.

I’ll let you know how the boatride goes.


The Architectural Foundation of San Francisco always looks for a vital, current theme for its annual student design contest. The America’s Cup, however strange and mysterious, is what’s happening. First-place overall is a California College of the Arts Summer Pre-College Program in Architecture, four weeks, intensive. Autodesk is offering a $100 prize for the best use of its software.


Gale force winds kept the AC45 fleet ashore today, so ACRM’s Iain Murray offered observations to the press.

On the electronic systems that communicate boat position, protest calls, and umpire calls: “The largest difficulty is getting everyone used to it. It’s getting very much like Formula 1, where you have a steering wheel with hundreds of functions on it. This is all part of the technology that’s required to sail these boats.”

On course configuration: “I think it’s going to change according to the windspeed. A light-air race course is going to look very different to a windy day race course. The tacking and gybing angles of these boats vary a lot with the wind strength. The emphasis on downwind sailing is becoming apparent and the short upwind with the long run seems to be a nice recipe.”


Suns New Jerseys