In two years, four months and a few hours, John Craig will be under the gun. Actually, he’ll most likely be pulling the trigger — as the principal race officer for the 34th America’s Cup. And working with his boss, Regatta Director Iain Murray, Craig will coordinate an international circuit of racing events even before the starting gun goes off on September 7, 2013.
There will be plenty of racing on the road to the America’s Cup. While the America’s Cup match itself is a head-to-head race between the challenger and the defender, a field of international contenders will have taken part in the competition leading up to the main event. First is an America’s Cup World Series (ACWS) this year with the smaller AC45 wing-sailed catamarans. Then, starting in San Francisco in the summer of 2012, the ACWS events will feature the larger and faster America’s Cup racing yachts, the AC72s. These high-tech 72-foot catamarans with wing sails are currently being designed by the teams and will first be raced in San Francisco.
Following those ACWS events, the challenging teams will then all compete in San Francisco for the Louis Vuitton Cup, the challenger series for the America’s Cup. Entries are open until the end of March 2013, and a field of eight to 10 international teams are expected to compete.
Craig’s first order of business is to hire an on-the-water team of about 40 people. Who’s he looking for? “We need a varied array of skill sets with a deep understanding of the sport, from engine mechanics to divers, and especially people with a background in technology,” he says. We caught up with Craig the morning of his last day as race manager for the St. Francis Yacht Club to discuss his exciting new position.
Q Who are the local guys to watch?
A John Kostecki, who has a home in Marin, will be a tactician on the Oracle Racing team, and Paul Cayard, longtime Bay Area sailor and resident, is the CEO of Swedish challenger Artemis Racing.
Q What are your reflections on the past 11 years at the yacht club?
A St. Francis has always been a really strong club, known for its commitment to racing. Throughout my time there, the club has enabled me to experiment with innovations such as boat tracking and new technologies that wouldn’t have been available at other clubs.
Q Is this a job you wanted as a kid?
A I’ve always wanted to be involved in the America’s Cup. I grew up sailing in Victoria, British Columbia, and as a coach for the Canadian Olympic team for 12 years, I was fortunate to be exposed to world-class competitive sailing. The America’s Cup, the oldest trophy in any international sport, is the pinnacle of sailing, so I have always aspired to be part of it.
Q Best vantage points?
A Since the AC72s aren’t even built yet and we’ll need to see how they perform due to the space being needed for tacking and gybing, we haven’t determined the specific race course configurations yet. Suggestions include finishing downwind off Pier 39 or under the Golden Gate Bridge. However, what we do know is that we will try to utilize the entire bay.
Q What is the biggest challenge?
A Since the bay is an active port busy with freighters, tugs and ferries, working with commercial traffic will be our biggest challenge. Our goal is to try to control the area as best we can during the 45 minutes of racing. Spectators on and off the water will also pose a challenge: We expect our audience to be six times bigger than Fleet Week.
Q How did you end up in Marinwood?
A I had visions of living in the Marina District and walking to the St. Francis Yacht Club to work. Our daughter, Danielle, was one year old, and the need for a backyard and spare rooms for family and friends and a good school district pulled us across the Golden Gate Bridge. After lots of driving around, my wife, Despina, came across Marinwood, and that became home.
Q Is your family involved in sailing?
A My wife currently works at the Bar Method in Greenbrae, though she did work for a sailing center in Vancouver for 13 years. Our kids, Dante (in fifth grade) and Danielle (in seventh grade) love being on the water but do need some sailing lessons, which we plan on sorting out this summer.
Q Are you nervous?
A No, I’m excited. Sure, it’s going to be a challenge. But being involved with the America’s Cup has always been a dream.
Q With the Challenger of Record being Club Nautico di Roma, how did the 34th America’s Cup end up in San Francisco?
A Larry Ellison’s Oracle Racing, the team representing the Golden Gate Yacht Club in the 33rd America’s Cup, defeated the Swiss Alinghi team in February 2010. That victory gave the Golden Gate Yacht Club the opportunity to decide with the America’s Cup Event Authority where and when to stage the next America’s Cup competition. San Francisco was selected following a review of international bids from cities seeking to host the prestigious competition.
On February 20, 2010, the all-silver America’s Cup was on display at San Francisco’s City Hall. Here’s a bit more about the oldest trophy in international sport: Made in 1848 for England’s Royal Yacht Squadron by R. & G. Garrard, Queen’s jewelers, London, it cost 100 guineas (about £100) and for awhile was called the 100 Guinea Cup. It is 26 5/8 inches tall, including a seven-inch base that was added in 1958 to allow for additional winners’ names. It’s made of 134 ounces of silver-plated Britannia metal, an alloy similar to pewter.