Sun, Jan 02, 2011 - Page 18 News List

San Francisco to host America’s Cup

LATE CHANGES:San Francisco had the America’s Cup all but secured in November, but the Port Commission changed the complicated deal that had been negotiated

AP, NEW YORK

The next America’s Cup will be sailed in 2013 on San Francisco Bay, with a spectacular backdrop of the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz and the Coit Tower.

San Francisco beat Newport, Rhode Island, on Friday in the bidding to hold sailing’s marquee regatta.

Sailing in San Francisco in a new class of fast, wing-sailed 22m catamarans on TV-friendly courses could reinvigorate the competition for the oldest trophy in international sports.

The image of the America’s Cup was badly damaged during a bitter two-and-a-half year court fight preceding the 33rd America’s Cup in February last year, when software mogul Larry Ellison led San Francisco-based BMW Oracle Racing to a two-race sweep of Switzerland’s Alinghi off Valencia, Spain.

“We really do think the 34th America’s Cup will be the best yet,” Stephen Barclay, an official with the Golden Gate Yacht Club and BMW Oracle Racing, said by telephone from his home in Auckland, New Zealand.

“We sought a venue that fulfills our promise — to showcase the best sailors in the world competing on the fastest boats and hosting the America’s Cup in San Francisco will realize that promise,” America’s Cup Event Authority chairman Richard Worth said in a statement announcing the selection.

Outgoing San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom said in a statement that the selection of the city “marks the beginning of an extraordinary new chapter for our city and for the sport of sailing ... We are ready to get to work right away in 2011 to deliver on this remarkable opportunity.”

San Francisco had the America’s Cup all but secured in November, but Barclay, the lead negotiator for the Golden Gate Yacht Club, said the Port Commission changed the complicated financial deal that had been negotiated and sent to the Board of Supervisors to begin the approval process.

After San Francisco was put on notice on Dec. 11 that its bid was unacceptable, America’s Cup officials began negotiating with Newport.

Russell Coutts, a four-time America’s Cup winner and chief executive of BMW Oracle Racing, had telephone conversations with Newsom before Christmas that helped swing the momentum back to the California city.

“Two people that need to be thanked for this process are the mayor and Russell,” Barclay said. “Both personally got involved to help the process along. We wouldn’t have gotten there without their involvement.”

Coutts said in a statement: “My support for San Francisco hosting the America’s Cup goes beyond the opportunity to see our team competing on home waters. We are excited to sail for our sport’s greatest trophy, on a stretch of water legendary among sailors worldwide.”

America’s Cup organizers had expressed concern about taking on too much risk in developing a portion of the San Francisco waterfront for the competition.

Under the original arrangement negotiated by Golden Gate Yacht Club and San Francisco officials, the America’s Cup Event Authority pledged to spend US$150 million to refurbish certain piers south of the Bay Bridge in exchange for future development rights to help recoup those costs.

Barclay said the Port Commission changed the agreement to include piers north of the Bay Bridge and changed the terms of the long-term leases.

Barclay said it would cost US$55 million to refurbish the northern piers.

“There’s still plenty of risk in this for the event authority, but they are to a large degree manageable risks,” Barclay said. “One of the big points we made was that we’re not making a selection where we put the event itself at risk. We were given the opportunity to balance our books and to a large degree we’ve done that. Both parties are happy with the deal.”

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