SAN FRANCISCO -- Know what I love about America's Cup 2013 to this point?
It proves that gazillionaires are just as screwed up as the rest of us.
Also, they can screw up things even worse than the rest of us.
As you probably know, Bay Area major rich guy Larry Ellison is behind the big boat race series in the bay this summer. His boat from Oracle Team USA will be matched against boats owned by other major rich guys from Italy and Sweden -- plus a New Zealand boat largely sponsored by the country's government, perhaps because the major rich guys of New Zealand are all sensible enough not to race $100 million catamarans.
So far, anyone who has shown up to watch along the San Francisco waterfront must be mystified. Friday's first scheduled big Cup event fell flat. Thanks to uncooperative weather, the spectacular 72-foot-long watercraft that are the America's Cup rock stars were as visible as Edward Snowden. Meanwhile, at a press session, the Italian team affirmed its threat to withdraw from the initial race this weekend. And the Swedish team said it might not be ready to compete for several more weeks.
Otherwise, it looks to be a splendid regatta!
"I would urge you to stay patient, stay with us and be prepared for quite a show," said race director Iain Murray regarding the situation.
OK, that's long enough. We're done being patient. Where are the boats? Will the first match race on Sunday even take place?
No one can provide a definitive answer. It is unclear, in fact, if anyone should believe anything promised by America's Cup organizers.
On the original schedule, Friday was supposed to be a highlight -- a fleet race, featuring all of the boats on the water at the same time, flying toward the finish line. Subsequently, the fleet race was downgraded to a parade of the boats along the waterfront preceding a time trial competition where each boat would be clocked going through the course individually.
Except, oops, never mind. Friday morning, Murray announced that because wind speeds over the bay were too risky, the 72-foot boats would be scratched from all of the day's events. So the eventual "parade" consisted of one San Francisco fire boat, followed by a replica of the 1850 yacht that won the first America's Cup, followed by a string of small support boats connected to the various teams -- the sort of boats you can see at any marina, any day of the week.
As this motley pageant motored past Piers 27/29 where the Cup festivities are anchored, perhaps 2,000 people watched with mild curiosity. They were occasionally goaded into tepid applause by a public address announcer who shouted such anything-for-a-response phrases as: "How many Kiwis do we have here?"
(Reaction: "Clap ... clap ... clap.")
Hey, at least the Kiwi sailing contingent is game. The Emirates Team New Zealand crew members have pledged to show up for Sunday's first planned head-to-head race in the round robin series.
The problem: There may be no boat to oppose them. The Luna Rossa Challenge skipper from Italy, Max Sirena, has filed a protest over recent rules changes that he believes will favor Ellison's Oracle boat -- and disadvantage the Italian boat. New Zealand has also protested for the same reason. But only Sirena has sworn that he won't compete until after the protest is heard and decided Monday by a five-person international sailing jury.
"We are here to race," declared Sirena at a Friday news conference before pivoting verbally and saying: "We may decide not to take part in the race Sunday."
Uh, got that? The rules say that if no Italian boat is on the start line at 12:15 that afternoon, the New Zealand crew would be required only to complete just one leg of the "race" on a solo basis to claim victory. Frankly, that wouldn't be too riveting.
So you may ask: Why haven't America's Cup organizers made certain that the jury members -- who have been in town since Wednesday -- make their ruling before Sunday?
No one seems to know for sure. In a way, it's comforting. Here we have some of the wealthiest people on Earth, yet for all of their fortunes and alleged smarts, they can't get their act together any better than us nonwealthy schlubs trying to organize an RV family vacation to Pismo Beach.
In fact, I would submit that any family on vacation at Pismo Beach could run the America's Cup with less travail and drama. I believe it was the noted yachtsman Notorious B.I.G. who first uttered the phrase: "Mo Money, Mo Problems." Never has that been more true than at Piers 27/29 this month.
And, as Oracle Team USA skipper Jimmy Spithill said Friday, it is really nothing new.
"In the America's Cup, there always seem to be battles on the water and battles on the shore," said Spithill. "At some point, you're going to race."
Any time, guys. Any time. We're all waiting.
And pardon us plebeian folk for feeling pretty superior about the whole thing.