SAN FRANCISCO — There's nothing like the first leg of the first race of the America's Cup, when teams get an idea of whose boat is fastest and who might have missed badly after spending $100 million or more.
And there's never been an America's Cup like this. It's being sailed on breathtaking San Francisco Bay in foiling 72-foot catamarans that can hit 50 mph. Defending champion Oracle Team USA is starting with a two-point deficit after getting punished in the biggest cheating scandal in the regatta's 162-year history.
It's an American tycoon, software billionaire Larry Ellison, against the gutty Kiwis of Emirates Team New Zealand, who carry the hopes of their small, sailing-mad island nation and a desire to sweep the Auld Mug back to the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron.
The short-course, inshore racing is both fan- and TV-friendly. Race 1 is scheduled to start at 1:15 p.m. PDT Saturday, with Race 2 to follow an hour later. Two races are scheduled for Sunday, with all four weekend races being shown live on NBC.
For the Kiwis, it's still best-of-17, meaning they need to win nine races to win the Cup. With its penalty, Oracle Team USA must win 11 races to keep the trophy.
Here are five things to watch in the 34th America's Cup:
SAN FRANCISCO: Tony Bennett sang about leaving his heart here, and skipper Jimmy Spithill and the boys from Oracle Team USA want to keep the America's Cup in the City by the Bay. While past America's Cups have been contested miles out at sea, this one will be sailed in one of the world's greatest natural amphitheaters, with a steady wind and sometimes tricky tide. Fans can watch from the shore or high-rise buildings. After starting parallel to the Golden Gate Bridge, the boats sail a short reach across the wind and then speed downwind past Alcatraz Island. The five-leg course ends just off Piers 27-29, home to America's Cup Park. TV shots will feature the Golden Gate and San Francisco-Oakland Bay bridges, the Coit Tower and the Transamerica Pyramid.