Iain Murray gunned a speedy motorboat through the choppy waters of the Hudson River and spoke about the impressive catamarans set to race this weekend in an elite international competition.
They are wing-sailed, carbon-fiber beasts that appear to fly above the water and can reach speeds of nearly 40 miles per hour.
“They like flatter water, but this won’t bother them,” said Mr. Murray, 58, an accomplished skipper from Australia who, as the director of this weekend’s regatta, was on the river on Wednesday to plan the racecourse several hundred yards away from the skyscrapers of Lower Manhattan.
Holding a world-class sailing race, part of the America’s Cup series, off Battery Park City may make for spectacular shoreline viewing, but it is not easy for organizers or racers, who may prefer a location farther offshore with easier winds to navigate and little interference from other boat traffic.
The race poses daunting logistical challenges. There is the harbor traffic — ferries, tugboats, barges and other large vessels that ply the Hudson — that must be diverted, along with a designated area for the more than 700 personal recreational boats expected to anchor for the event.
Then there is the rapid current of the Hudson River as well as effects on the wind by the tall buildings flanking the racecourse, both in Manhattan and on the other side of the river in Jersey City.
All of which complicates the task of timing the races to start precisely at 2 p.m. for live coverage of the regatta on Saturday and Sunday. The competition, officially called the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series, helps promote and determine points for the 35th America’s Cup, to be held in June 2017 in Bermuda.
The cup was held in New York waters from 1870 to 1920, but, after nearly a century, the competition is returning to the city with vastly different boats from those in the earliest races, which featured wide, wooden two-masted schooners.
In comparison, the boats being sailed this weekend resemble spacecrafts.
The six countries competing use nearly identical catamarans, each with a 70-foot-tall solid sail that looks like an airplane wing. The sleek vessels are equipped with L-shaped hydrofoils that let them glide dramatically out of the water.
“The geometry of the boat is measured to the millimeter,” said Mr. Murray, who was docked at Liberty Landing Marina in Jersey City to visit the large white tents sheltering the sailboats.
Inside the tent for Oracle Team USA, which won the most recent America’s Cup, in 2013, workers were wet-sanding the boat’s red rudders like precious stones.
In the SoftBank Team Japan tent, Mr. Murray walked between the black catamaran and the sail lying unattached next to it, drumming his fingers on the thin plastic skin, stretched taut over the sail’s strong, light frame.
“It’s the same stuff your meat comes packed in, at the butchers,” he said of the plastic.
These races combine high-tech design with extreme athleticism from crew members in helmets who scramble around the boat, hang off the edge to provide stability and sometimes get washed off.
The sailboats have become YouTube sensations and helped fuel a “stadium sailing” trend: ocean racing staged close to land for better viewing, with enthusiasts using special apps that allow graphics for an enhanced experience.
In their attempt to make sailing both spectator- and television-friendly, organizers say New York has the right audience and setting for news media attention.
The lower Hudson provides an ideal location for stadium setting, say the event’s promoters, who expect more than 20,000 people to gather along the waterfronts of Lower Manhattan and Jersey City to see the races, which will run roughly between Chambers and Rector Streets.
Races have been held near urban areas before, including in San Francisco and Gothenburg, Sweden, but they have never been staged this close to a downtown area.
Organizers have met for months with New York City officials and law enforcement agencies and other parties. Commercial shipping companies have agreed to work around the race times, and a separate lane will be established near the shoreline for ferries and other vessels.
For sailors, a major challenge will be the Hudson’s wind and current conditions. To adapt to the strong tidal current, which during the race will be running south with the outgoing tide, organizers are using heavier anchors and longer chains than usual to secure the race buoys, which are called marks.
As for the air, the canyon of high-rises in Manhattan’s financial district and in Jersey City could negatively affect the all-important wind that is the sailor’s fuel.
Winds from the north or south coming straight up or down river are preferable, and the most likely, given local weather patterns.
But a breeze from the east — and slightly less so, from the west — would become shifty and turbulent as it sifted through the buildings and swept across the racecourse, said Nathan Outteridge, 30, the captain for the Artemis Racing team from Sweden.
“It adds a new element and dimension to it and makes it trickier,” Mr. Outteridge said.
Weather forecasts for Saturday predict a morning wind from the north that by early afternoon will give way to a prevailing ocean breeze from the south. The concern is that the lull during the shift will occur when the races are scheduled to begin at 2 p.m. for the live telecast.
The catamarans need about 10 knots to glide above the water, and races will not begin if the wind is below 5 knots or above 25 knots, Mr. Murray said. (A knot is equivalent to a speed of 1.15 miles per hour.)
To try to run three races of about 20 minutes each, officials will set the course and length just before starting time.
Practice races on Friday will be filmed for use in case conditions on Saturday or Sunday prevent the regatta.
Whatever the conditions, Mr. Murray said, “At the end of the day, even if you have lots of current, or dead cows in the water, the best guys will win.”