Racing

AC 34: Focus on San Francisco Bay

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In a move that is sure to energize and inspire the sailors of San Francisco Bay, Larry Ellison's BMW Oracle Racing team today announced that it is no longer entertaining bids from other US cities hoping to host America's Cup 34. San Francisco, home to the winning Golden Gate Yacht Club, is now the only city in the USA under consideration.

The team, with the America's Cup in tow, recently toured the East Coast, visiting the White House and the Cup's former waters of Newport, Rhode Island, which also had hopes to become the venue for the next Cup races. Ellison, however, has said since winning the Cup in February that San Francisco Bay—with its reliable seabreeze, camera-pleasing backdrops, and crowd-accommodating shoreline—is his first choice.

Rumors continue to swirl around possible locations in Europe, which could do justice to an America's Cup as sport, but not to its long nationalistic heritage. The fact that in 1851 the schooner America was named exactly that, America, established a tradition that the competition for the trophy won by the America will be sailed in the winner's home waters, a tradition set aside only in 2007, when Switzerland's Alinghi team put the Cup out for bid, and in February, 2010, when the Alinghi catamaran was defeated by the BOR trimaran.

AC 34 is slated for 2013 or 2014—more likely 2014, considering the need to develop a suitable infrastructure for team bases and public interactive space. San Francisco, once but no longer a vibrant commercial port, now has a handful of crumbling piers crying out for redevelopment. Mayor Gavin Newsom, the city's Board of Supervisors, and the Port of San Francisco have all endorsed an America's Cup event as a unique opportunity to revitalize waterfront property now curtained by chain fences marked Danger, Keep Out.

"The BMW Oracle announcement states, "San Francisco has put forward a strong, well-rounded venue proposal."

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

San Francisco citizens have been slow to believe, really believe, that AC 34 will be sailed on San Francisco Bay. Today's announcements should go far toward changing that perception. Let's pick up the announcement from BMW Oracle racing:

"Our team has said from the outset that San Francisco and the Bay Area have the potential to provide a superb stage on which to host a memorable America’s Cup," commented Russell Coutts, CEO of BMW ORACLE Racing. "Our team owner, Larry Ellison, has called the Bay 'a fantastic natural amphitheatre'."

In being granted status as the sole venue candidate in the USA, San Francisco can forge ahead with plans to provide the necessary facilities for the America's Cup along the City's waterfront, south of the Bay Bridge. It also now allows San Francisco to "nationalize" their efforts and to seek support from the State of California and the federal government in Washington, D.C.

Under the Cup’s governing rules, the Deed of Gift written in 1852, the winner and hence Defender for the next Match chooses the venue. San Francisco’s Mayor Gavin Newsom said, "We are honored to lead a national effort to host the 34th America’s Cup. Larry Ellison has a transformative vision for hosting the Cup on San Francisco Bay, and we are prepared to leverage the nation’s support to make this a coast-to-coast campaign and to realize that vision."

Other US cities have been excited by the prospect of hosting the America’s Cup match, notably Newport, Rhode Island where Cup racing was held from 1930 through 1983, San Diego, California which hosted Cup defenses in 1988, 1992 and 1995, and Long Beach, California, site of the 1984 Olympic yachting regatta and the annual Congressional Cup.

Coutts said, "We are extremely grateful to the other American candidates. Their disappointment is understandable as each would have been a great host city in its own right. And we appreciate their offers of support to San Francisco going forward."

For more from Kimball Livingston, please visit his blog Blue Planet Times.

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