To meet tight schedules and control costs, managers charter ships, use trains and trucks.
By Chris Dupin
The 2013 America’s Cup race may be the most spectator-friendly in history.
Both the selection of the challenger and the defense of the Cup by Larry Ellison’s Team Oracle will be sailed over a course in California’s San Francisco Bay.
That means fans won’t need to be on a boat out in the ocean to view the competition — there will be miles of coastline from which they can view the race.
And the races look to be thrilling enough to attract a whole new audience to sailing. A new class of race boats — 72-foot-long catamarans (AC72s) sporting 130-foot-tall wing sails — look like something out of the Star Wars movies than the yachts that raced off Newport, R.I., from the 1930s through the 1980s. These sleek boats are capable of reaching speeds of 40 knots.
Furthermore, the America’s Cup has become something of a global phenomenon.
Smaller, 45-foot-long versions of the boats that will race in the Cup (AC45s) are competing in a two-year series of races — dubbed the America’s Cup World Series — at venues around the world.
The 2011-2012 season races were held in Cascais, Portugal; Plymouth, England; San Diego; Naples and Venice, Italy; and Newport.
In August, the second season of AC45 races began in San Francisco. After another regatta in October in San Francisco, these boats will again return to Venice and Naples and other venues that had not yet been announced as this issue of American Shipper
went to press.
Then in the summer and fall of 2013, races using the larger AC72s will be held in San Francisco Bay. The Louis Vuitton Cup races will be held from July to September to select a challenger. Then in September, Oracle will defend the America’s Cup in the finals.
Moving the boats for the eight teams competing in the world series — the challengers hail from Sweden, the United Kingdom, China, New Zealand, France, Italy, and South Korea — is handled by America’s Cup Race Management (ACRM).
The goal of the logistics process is to appear invisible to fans, so “all they see are the teams in the boats,” said Peter Ansell, director of onshore operations for ACRM. “That is how it should be; that is what it is all about. But for some of us, behind the scenes is almost as interesting, or more interesting, than the sport side.”
In addition to the race boats, ACRM arranges the transportation from venue to venue of 120 shipping containers and flat racks holding equipment, a crane to launch the boats, and a small armada of 29 boats — towboats, rescue boats, and marshal boats — used to support the race.
Many of the containers are fitted out as offices or workshops, and “these become what in motor sports would be called the pit area,” Ansell said. ACRM has its own pit area, and there are 18 containers that support an international broadcast compound.
“It’s effectively a mini-village with its own generators and water,” he added.
ACRM said it was necessary to have logistics coordinated by a single manager rather than having each team try to arrange transportation of its own equipment.
“There is no time for things to arrive at different times, clearing customs at different times, and so on,” Ansell said. “We need to get the ship unloaded in two days, and get the equipment at the site and built within 10 days.”
To meet that tight schedule, ACRM has used a variety of techniques to move cargo, but generally charters an entire ship to move the boats and accompanying “kit” from port to port.
The process began last summer when ACRM assembled all the race boats and support equipment in Lisbon as it arrived from around the world.
In the preliminary America’s Cup World Series races, all the AC45 sailboats are identically made by Core Builders Composites in New Zealand.
(The larger AC72s will have to be built within certain parameters, but Ansell said the teams have the ability to tweak the designs. The hulls must also be built in the competitor’s country, though Core supplies parts like crossbeams and sails for the AC72s.)
After the equipment arrived in Lisbon, it was trucked a short distance to Cascais, Portugal, for the first round of the races.
At the end of the race, everything was loaded back on a ship, using the port’s lifting gear, but with ACRM coordinating the stowage planning.
The ship then transported all the equipment to Plymouth where the ship’s gear was used to discharge and then reload the vessel after the races in England and transport all the equipment to San Diego. Using a combination of time- and spot-chartered vessels, ACRM moved the boats and support equipment from venue to venue—after San Diego to Valencia, Spain, where it was sorted and maintained during the Christmas holiday, and then to a series of races earlier this year in Naples, Venice, and Newport.
Ansell compared the process to moving a rock group from city to city or racecars for the Formula 1 circuit.
Ansell and his colleague Stuart Gentry, the shipping and logistics manager for ACRM, both have backgrounds working independently in event logistics on competitions such as the Volvo Ocean/Whitbread Round the World Race, Formula 1 racing and the Camel Trophy, an adventure competition in which participants use Land Rovers to cross remote areas.
By chartering a ship, Ansell said ACRM has a great deal of flexibility in how it handled the transportation, stowage and discharge of cargo.
While the AC45s are cleverly designed so they can be broken down and moved in standard 40-foot containers to save time, ACRM found ways to transport the catamarans assembled, using custom-made frames.
“Because we don’t know what the port situation is going to be, self-geared vessels give us a lot more flexibility where we can put the ship alongside,” he said. “It doesn’t have to be at a port where there is container-handling equipment” and in some cases, support boats can be directly discharged or loaded from the water.
“We try to load the vessel in such a way that when it arrives at its destination the containers are in the right order to take them out and deliver and build the site,” Ansell said.
In San Francisco, the pits for the teams are located at piers 30-32 near the Bay Bridge, while ACRM will have its offices and the media center at Marina Green, near the area where the races will take place between Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge.
Mike Lutz, a spokesman for the U.S. Coast Guard, said his agency, ACRM and commercial shipping interests have worked out plans to keep the races from interfering with commercial shipping.
The racecourse will be south of the main shipping channel to Oakland and other Bay area ports, and Lutz noted ships could be slowed during their approach to the Golden Gate, the one area where commercial traffic, race and spectator boats might be closest.
Before the San Francisco regatta in August, the AC45s had raced in Newport, so when moving the boats and other gear to San Francisco, ACRM faced the additional complication of the Jones Act, which requires cargo moved between points in the United States to be performed with U.S.-owned, crewed, and built ships.
“For us that was a real difficulty, because trying to find a vessel that could take us from one side to the other without paying ridiculous amounts of money was very difficult. So, we ended up using a ship, a train and trucks,” Ansell said.
Four large 20-meter boats that are part of the “on-water management” of the race — committee boats and mark boats that are positioned at the turning points in the race course — were loaded on a ship and transported by water from Newport to San Francisco.
All the containers and other equipment were transported by a 1.5-mile-long train that traveled over the Providence and Wooster Railroad, Canadian National, Union Pacific, and San Francisco Bay Railroad. Another 18 boats that were too large for the train were loaded onto trucks.
“It was an interesting exercise for us because we’ve done a lot of shipping around the world but we had not used a train across the U.S. before. That brought with it many idiosyncrasies and interesting bits of bureaucracy that we had to follow,” Ansell said.
“One of the railroad guys told us that normally it would take them three months to arrange putting together a special train as we had,” he further explained. “But we ended up doing it in the space of two weeks with the Fourth of July being in the middle of it.”
Along the way, Ansell said ACRM did not encounter any “show-stopping problems.”
He said the few frustrations have been when using conventional air or sea freight transport to move spare parts and new equipment.
“That is where things can go wrong,” Ansell said. “They end up getting lost in the system and it just seems to be so frustrating when it is not totally in your control, you can’t do anything about it.”