SF State News {University Communications}

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Tracking currents for the America's Cup

Sept. 3, 2010 -- If San Francisco is chosen to host the 34th America's Cup, researchers from SF State can provide key information on currents to competitors in sailing's most prestigious event.

A photo of a censor at San Francisco's Crissy Field.

A land-based censor at San Francisco's Crissy Field. Photo by Regan Long.

SF State's Romberg Tiburon Center is part of the Coastal Ocean Currents Monitoring Program in Northern California (COCMP-NC), which monitors offshore currents and reports that information to the public. SF State is responsible for monitoring currents in the San Francisco Bay and along the coast from south of Point Reyes to Pillar Point near Half Moon Bay.

For competitors in the America's Cup, understanding even the slightest change in water currents can mean the difference between victory and defeat. Professor of Geosciences Newell "Toby" Garfield has contacted the Mayor's office about being a part of the City's pitch to host the America's Cup, and received a positive response about the University's involvement.

After Oracle Racing captured the 33rd America's Cup in February 2010, team owner and Oracle CEO Larry Ellison expressed interest in hosting the event in the United States. The previous champion is responsible for picking a host site for the next event, and in July, San Francisco was announced as the only U.S. location under consideration to host the event in 2013 or 2014.

According to a July report by the Bay Area Council Economic Institute, the America's Cup would generate $1.9 billion in economic activity and create about 12,000 jobs if held in San Francisco.

Garfield and others monitor land-based censors along the coast and San Francisco Bay that emit radio waves and measure the Doppler shift of the return frequency to determine the direction of currents. By using information from a variety of censors, researchers get an accurate picture of real-time coastal currents. The COCMP-NC then posts the updated information to its web site every half hour.
Typically, the America's Cup is held off the coast, but should all competitors agree to the change, the races could be held in the Bay, likely north of the Bay Bridge where winds are stronger, Garfield said. Garfield said the complexity of the currents in the Bay would provide the Oracle Team with a tremendous advantage in the competition. "If they were to hold the competition in the Bay, they would have a huge home court advantage because of the complicated currents," Garfield said.

For more information about currents along the coast and in the San Francisco Bay, visit: http://www.norcalcurrents.org

-- Michael Bruntz


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