| San Francisco
San Francisco Feb 13 Hawaii and the coastal
cities of Newport, Rhode Island, and San Diego are vying to
entice billionaire Larry Ellison to let them host the America's
Cup in 2017, when the contest for the historic sailing trophy
will next be held.
Ellison would by all accounts like to keep his Oracle Team
USA sailing crew and the 35th America's Cup matchup in San
Francisco. Last year's competition overcame a host of early
difficulties and ended with an epic comeback win for Oracle and
widespread praise for the spectacular racing venue on San
But despite strong support from San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee,
initial negotiations between the city and Oracle team CEO
Russell Coutts for the 2017 event have been rocky.
Local politicians who have long opposed any public subsidies
for what they deride as a rich man's yacht race have gained
ammunition with a report this week showing that the 2013 regatta
cost city taxpayers more than $11 million and created fewer jobs
That may create an opening for the port of San Diego and
Newport, Rhode Island - both of which have hosted multiple Cup
regattas in the past - as well as the state of Hawaii, where
Ellison owns most of the Island of Lanai.
Coutts confirmed in an email to Reuters on Thursday that,
though he is continuing to talk with San Francisco, he is
evaluating alternative venues. In the meantime, he plans to
release next month the rules for the 2017 event, calling for
smaller, less-expensive catamarans than the 72-foot yachts
that competed for the Cup last year.
The big boats provided an exciting spectacle. But sailors
questioned their safety after a British sailor died in a
training accident, while their prohibitive cost limited the
field to just four teams and undermined the economics of the
It's unclear whether other locations are being seriously
considered or simply being used as negotiating leverage in the
San Francisco discussions, but some prominent Cup participants
say a return to San Francisco is anything but assured.
"There was a strong desire to go to San Francisco, and I
don't think there's a lot of confidence that that's going to
happen anymore," Iain Murray, who was race director for the 2013
contest and is now heading up an Australian Cup challenge, told
Reuters this week.
Bob Nelson, chairman of San Diego's port commission told
Reuters that his city would be thrilled to see the return of an
event that was held there in 1988, 1992 and 1995.
"As great as San Francisco is as a venue, if there's no deal
to be had there, San Diego is ready," said Nelson.
"We're wide-eyed on the fact that San Francisco has invested
a great deal of money and that much of that infrastructure
remains available," said Nelson.
Brad Read, executive director of Sail Newport, told Reuters
on Wednesday he is filling out a "request for information" to
promote Newport as the host city for the next regatta. Read
would not divulge the questions in the RFI, saying they are
Read's public-access sailing center on Narragansett Bay
would make a perfect amphitheater for the 2017 series, he said.
Newport hosted the Cup races from 1930 until 1983, when
Australia broke the United States' long stranglehold on the
163-year-old trophy known as the Auld Mug.
"Newport is synonymous with the history of the America's
Cup," Read said. "We have the fan base, and we have the track."
Hawaii Governor Neil Abercrombie expressed a willingness to
do whatever he could to accommodate the races and Ellison.
"The governor thinks it's a tremendous opportunity, and he's
certainly doing his best to be sure that Hawaii's favorably
considered," press secretary Justin Fujioka told Reuters.
Negotiations between San Francisco and Ellison's team were
also contentious last time around. Cup officials flew off to
Newport at the 11th hour before finally reaching a deal with San
Murray said San Francisco remains everyone's favorite.
"I think every sailor loves sailing in San Francisco. If you
did a worldwide poll of sailors, racing on the bay in San
Francisco would be right up there," he said. He praised the San
Francisco Bay's ideal geography, its predictable, strong winds
and its scenic backdrop framed by the Golden Gate Bridge.
"All the stars lined up when San Francisco got created for
sailors," he said.
The mayor's office did not return calls or emails. Lee told
Coutts in a December letter that lessons learned from the 34th
America's Cup would guide his approach to the next event.
"I am committed to negotiating an agreement for the 35th
America's Cup in San Francisco ... that maximizes the economic,
cultural and other benefits for the City and eliminates
unnecessary risks and uncertainty," he wrote.