BMW Oracle wants San Francisco

Updated: July 8, 2010, 6:47 PM ET
Associated Press

The next America's Cup match could be sailed with a backdrop of the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz and the Transamerica Pyramid.

Defender BMW Oracle Racing on Thursday announced that San Francisco is the only U.S. port being considered to host the 34th America's Cup match.

That eliminates San Diego and Newport, R.I., both former sites of America's Cup racing, and Long Beach, Calif., where the 1984 Olympic regatta was sailed.

San Francisco is home to the Golden Gate Yacht Club, which sponsors BMW Oracle Racing and is the new home for the oldest trophy in international sports. BMW Oracle Racing wrested the silver trophy from Alinghi of Switzerland in a two-race sweep off Valencia, Spain, in giant multihulls in February.

Software tycoon Larry Ellison, who owns BMW Oracle Racing, has long felt that San Francisco Bay is one of the best natural amphitheaters for sailing in the world, where spectators can watch from the shore or the city's many skyscrapers. Oracle Corp. is based in Redwood City, south of San Francisco.

But San Francisco will apparently have strong competition to host at least the final showdown between the defender and challenger. BMW Oracle Racing said four European countries have expressed interest in hosting the racing. Valencia, which has the infrastructure in place from the 2007 and 2010 America's Cups, as well as ports in Italy, France and Portugal are believed to be in the mix.

Discussions involving European ports are believed to have reached the national government level. The Challenger of Record, which represents the interests of all challenging teams, is Italy's Club Nautico di Roma. Sailing is more popular in Europe than in the United States, and challenging teams feel their sponsors would get a better return if the regatta was sailed in European waters.

The 34th America's Cup will be sailed in either 2013 or 2014. BMW Oracle Racing plans to make the venue announcement by the end of the year.

The recently released draft protocol calls for multiple regattas around the world during the years leading up to the 34th America's Cup. The final challenger selection series may or may not be sailed in the host venue for the match between challenger and defender.

BMW Oracle Racing CEO Russell Coutts, a four-time America's Cup winner, said designating San Francisco as the sole U.S. candidate allows it to move ahead with plans to "nationalize" its efforts and to seek support from state and federal governments.

"The San Francisco Bay Area is blessed with physical assets that are unmatched anywhere in the world," Mayor Gavin Newsom said in a statement. "This announcement allows us to leverage resources throughout the country to ensure that 34th America's Cup is defended in America."

Shortly after BMW Oracle Racing's victory, San Francisco began working on a proposal focusing on the waterfront south of the Bay Bridge for the necessary infrastructure.

Newsom said an economic impact study will be released next week that will illustrate the significant financial benefits to the local, state and federal economies should San Francisco secure the host city rights. He also said he is forming a national America's Cup Organizing Committee to secure the private and corporate support necessary to win the campaign.

In 2003, San Francisco hosted the exhibition Moet Cup between BMW Oracle Racing and Alinghi. The only hitch came when a massive container ship steamed into the middle of the course, forcing the abandonment of a race between Ellison and Alinghi owner Ernesto Bertarelli.

The America's Cup has been defended outside of the champion's country only twice before in its 159-year history, at Valencia in 2007 and 2010. That's because the defender was from landlocked Switzerland.

BMW Oracle Racing spokesman Tom Ehman said San Diego and Newport could get one or more pre-regattas during the buildup to the next America's Cup.

BMW Oracle Racing tested its giant trimaran in San Diego for 16 months before beating Alinghi. A week after that victory, the crew was honored in San Diego and mayor Jerry Sanders made a personal pitch to Ellison to hold the next America's Cup in his city.

"GGYC and BOR have consistently stated that they want to conduct the 34th Defense in San Francisco and we will support them to keep the event in our state and country," said Troy Sears, a member of San Diego's host committee who added that the Southern California city could serve as a training base for teams.

"It was San Francisco's to lose, and obviously they've done a nice job," said Brad Read, executive director of Sail Newport. "Do I wish that someday we could figure out a way to host in Rhode Island? Sure. But this was not unexpected."

In another development, grinders will be back in the next America's Cup. The crewmen who furiously turn the winches that hoist and trim the sails were replaced by engines in the last America's Cup because the boats were so immense.

BMW Oracle Racing hasn't decided whether the next Cup will be sailed in multihulls or monohulls, but it has decided that sails will be hoisted and trimmed by manual power. However, an engine will be used to cant the keel on monohulls and move appendages on multihulls.

A new class of boat is expected to be chosen by the end of September.


Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press