Although the America's Cup Finals won't take place until 2013, San Francisco will get a significant taste of the action this week at the America's Cup World Series Regatta--a warm up to next summer's finale.
A quick glance at the schedule of events suggests that "warm up" may be an understatement. This week's activities span five days, and include racing, a free Dr. Dog concert, an AT&T Park "sail-by," around-town viewing parties with hotel and drink specials and a sprawling America's Cup Village on the Marina Green, complete with a history exhibit, a big screen viewing station, live commentators and wine and champagne lounges all week long.
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The event might also help answer the question that has so far stifled excitement for many San Franciscans: what is the America's Cup?
"This event is to whet San Francisco's appetite for what's coming next year," said America's Cup CEO Stephen Barclay to The Huffington Post. The final America's Cup Finals--the triennial sailing world championship--will be hosted in the San Francisco Bay next summer.
"We've been talking about this for so long in San Francisco," Barclay continued. "People are smiling when I say that now it's finally coming anymore. This isn't a promise anymore, it's a reality."
Though San Francisco is not the only city to host the races (similar events have been hosted in Italy and Southern California over the past year), the Bay Area incarnation is unique both because it offers a preview of the waters for the finals, and because it offers spectators an unusually close experience.
While most races occur several miles from land, the San Francisco races are just off the shore.
Just how close? "You won't quite be able to reach out and touch them, but you will think they are coming ashore," explained Golden Gate Yacht Club Vice Commodore Tom Ehman.
Check out a preview of what's in store this week in our slideshow below. Then, watch a preview of next year's America's Cup.