An international sailing event is expected to bring spirited competition, worldwide attention and tourist dollars to San Diego when it is launched in early March, local officials said, Friday, Nov. 5.
San Diego Bay will host the RC44 Regattas that feature high-performance sail boats racing at close quarters. The races, scheduled for March 2-6 next year, will be easily viewed from San Diego's North Embarcadero, Harbor Island, Shelter Island and elsewhere on the bay.
"The RC44 is one of the premier events in international sailing," said San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders at a morning news conference on the deck of the USS Midway Museum. "We are only one of two American cities that will host the event. We're proud and thrilled to host it."
Since 2007, RC44 races have been held in exotic locales around the globe, including the Canary Islands, Dubai, Valencia, Spain and Venice, Italy. A regatta will be held in Miami in December before the crews move west to San Diego.
This is not your garden variety racing. It's not just for people wearing blazers and sipping mint juleps. It will be exciting. These boats can travel at 20 knots and turn on a dime.
— Chuck Nichols, sailing enthusiast
The event is expected to draw 14 identical 44-foot boats, each with eight-person crews. The event will be headquartered at the Port of San Diego's new Port Pavilion on Broadway Pier, just north of the USS Midway Museum on North Harbor Drive. The boats will be docked on the south side of Broadway Pier and spectators can watch the teams prepare the boats for competition in a scene reminiscent of NASCAR's pit row.
"This is an idea that seems so intuitive that it should have happened much sooner," said Port Commissioner Lee Burdick. "This is an idea whose time has finally come. It will place San Diego at the center of the sailing world."
The races will attract the sailing press, sailing fans and the family and friends of crew members. Officials of the non-profit Sailing Events Association San Diego, which is sponsoring the regatta, estimates that it will prompt the occupancy of several hundred hotel rooms and attract 7,500 spectators.
Officials of Sailing Events Association San Diego noted that San Diego has hosted the prestigious America's Cup sailing competition and said the organization plans to pursue additional sailing events in the future. They believe the RC44 competition will whet the appetite of San Diegans for more sail races.
"People will come from throughout the region to view this world-class racing event in one of the most beautiful settings in the world," said San Diego City Councilman Kevin Faulconer. "Sailing is in San Diego's blood, and the RC44 racing will become part of our rich tradition. It will be an opportunity to show San Diego and our beautiful and evolving waterfront."
Chuck Nichols of Sailing Events Association San Diego helped bring the America's Cup competition to San Diego in 1995. He said the RC44 matches will be easily accessible to the public, with some of the races starting from just off of Broadway Pier.
Al Kidd of the San Diego Sports Commission said the event will be good for San Diego's economy.
"It will increase tourist dollars in San Diego and facilitate the growth of high-profile sailing events in the city."