18' International Skiff Regatta preview- 18' Skiffs share S.F. Bay

2012 18’ International Skiff Regatta
The America's Cup? Fine.The Mark Foy Trophy? New Zealand wants that, too.

Both stand to be available to the Kiwis September 7th to fifteenth when San Francisco Bay hosts eight New Zealand teams among those competing in the Nespresso 18' International Skiff Regatta for the Mark Foy Trophy, while sharing the waterfront race course on race days with America's Cup defender Oracle Team USA and, most likely, Emirates Team New Zealand for now the dominant challenger in its promising quest for the Auld Mug.

St. Francis Yacht Club manages the skiff event, independent of the AC competition.

After a practice day Saturday, racing starts Sunday, September eigth, followed by Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday. After the two 72-foot America's Cup finalists match-race at mid-day and head back to harbor, up to 20 of the skiffs one-fourth their size will pick up the building breeze at 1:45 p.m. Pacific time.

The skiffs are aiming for 10 races overall, including the traditional 5.3-nautical mile Ronstan Bridge to Bridge race late Thursday afternoon.

Skipper Alex Vallings (r.) with last year’s victorious New Zealand crew of Josh McCormack and Chris Kitchen
Alex Vallings, whose New Zealand team won the skiff regatta last year, said this week, 'Can’t wait to get there and get sailing. The C-Tech team has been to S.F. for three years now and it is always a great regatta with excellent breeze, close racing and well organized.

'However, this year will be a once in a lifetime event, sailing straight after the AC racing. Hopefully, we can steal some TV coverage!'

As it is, they'll be launching their skiffs from the Marina Green spectator area deeper into the bay instead of from Crissy Field west of St. Francis.

Their 12th annual skirmish in San Francisco marks a step up in stature with the addition of the Mark Foy Trophy, a prize inspired by the vision of the Australian department store owner who in the late 19th century successfully introduced sailboat racing to a spectator audience, featuring the overpowered 18-footers.

While the JJ Giltinan regatta run annually in Sydney since 1938 is regarded as the class's world championship, the Mark Foy has gained global status entering its fifth year of spreading the skiff spirit to various world locations.

Notably, Vallings followed up last year's win at San Francisco with another in the 2012 Mark Foy on his home waters in Auckland. With Chris Kitchen and Joshua McCormack as crew, he returns to San Francisco with seven other Maersk Line NZ teams, joined by other current entries from Denmark, Germany and Great Britain.

Their competition also will include USA veteran Howie Hamlin of Long Beach, Calif. who was second to Vallings in both of the above events by two points in the Mark Foy after winning four of the nine races. Hamlin will have regulars Matt Noble and Paul Allen as crew.

Hamlin, twice a Giltinan winner, also has won world titles in the 505 and International 14 classes and has been a key organizer in bringing global talent to this event, which he has won six times.

America’s Cup Regatta Director Iain Murray (l.) talks old times with fellow Aussie and 18’ Skiff veteran John (Woody) Winning
It all comes together concurrent with the leadership of this America's Cup. Iain Murray, the Australian who is the Regatta Director for AC 34 and CEO of America’s Cup Race Management, not only drove Australia's defender at Fremantle in 1987 but a few years earlier had won six consecutive Giltinans from 1977 to 1982.

Then there is Mike Martin, an American who has sailed extensively on the 18-foot skiffs as crew for Hamlin, won the SAP 505 Worlds in San Francisco in 2009 and this year received US Sailing's Creativity Award for his contributions in the development of the new electronic umpiring system he oversees for the America's Cup.

On the skiff side, the New Zealand presence is largely attributed to veteran competitor Graham Catley, an Auckland businessman who said upon arrival for last year's regatta, 'This is the first year New Zealand has been competitive, with good equipment and time to develop sailing skills with the 18s.'

Fair warning. In the class usually dominated by Australians, Vallings won with a day to spare, followed by countrymen in five of the next 13 places.

Nespresso began their association with the sport of sailing as co-sponsor of Team Alinghi for the 32nd America’s Cup campaign between 2004-2007, as well as being the Official Coffee to the event.

In 2010, Nespresso and Wally, the world leader in yachting innovation, launched the Nespresso Cup, an international regatta exclusively for the Wally Class in Portofino, Italy, bringing together some of the world’s most respected world-class sailors, to deliver one of the most aesthetically pleasing sailing regattas.

America’s Cup sailors Loick Peyron, Paul Cayard, Francesco De Angelis, Jochen Schuemann were the Nespresso Cup Ambassadors, adding their own individual style to this unique event.

Nespresso is now Proud Sponsor of Emirates Team New Zealand, challenger for the 34th America’s Cup in San Francisco. More information on Nespresso on Nepresso website