SAN FRANCISCO -- Thousands of spectators who had been looking forward to watching up to five days of America's Cup racing each week in July from bleacher seats along the bay will be given refunds, America's Cup officials announced Monday.
The decision comes after the racing schedule was reduced when Sweden's Artemis Racing, still recovering from a fatal capsize last month, said neither its new boat nor its crew would be ready to race until later in July.
Opening ceremonies begin July 4 for the international regatta. The first round of the Louis Vuitton Cup, which precedes the America's Cup finals in September, begins July 7. While the original race schedule called for five days of racing each week among three challenging teams, only Emirates Team New Zealand and Italy's Luna Rossa are committed to start. During July, those two teams will face each other five times until the semifinals in early August. By then, Artemis is expected to have joined the races as a third-place challenger.
"We want to be fair to the fans," said Stephen Barclay, CEO of the America's Cup Event Authority that is putting on the regatta. "With Artemis not able to determine when in July they're going to be racing, it puts uncertainty into some of those races. The fairest thing to do is refund the money."
While the reduced racing schedule will surely disappoint sailing fans, Barclay says the good news is that Artemis is racing at all. Last month, on a routine practice session on the bay, the team's 72-foot catamaran capsized, killing crewman Andrew "Bart" Simpson and destroying its boat. Its second boat was under construction at the time and was supposed to launch last week, but more intense testing of the boat's safety is delaying its launch date until early July. The team then needs to practice and test the boat before it is ready to compete.
Artemis is still listed in the race schedule, but it is expected to forfeit each race until it is ready to compete. To earn race points, the opposing team will have to circle the racecourse solo and cross the finish line. The winner of the Louis Vuitton Cup will face defender Oracle Team USA, which won the cup in 2010. The America's Cup finals begin Sept. 7.
Contact Julia Prodis Sulek at 408-278-3409. Follow her at twitter.com/juliasulek ___