San Francisco officials approve nonbinding term sheet in bid to host America’s Cup

By Bernie Wilson, AP
Tuesday, October 5, 2010

San Francisco approves America’s Cup term sheet

San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors voted 9-2 on Tuesday to approve a nonbinding term sheet for hosting the 34th America’s Cup in 2013.

The vote — with Chris Daly and John Avalos dissenting — is a significant step in the bid to host sailing’s marquee regatta on San Francisco Bay.

San Francisco, home to America’s Cup champion BMW Oracle Racing, is the only U.S. city being considered to host the regatta. BMW Oracle Racing, owned by software tycoon Larry Ellison, is evaluating similar offers from Valencia, Spain, and a port outside Rome. The American syndicate will pick the venue by the end of the year, perhaps earlier.

“San Francisco Bay and its natural amphitheater is the best place on Earth to defend the America’s Cup and bring millions of new fans to sailing from around the world,” Mayor Gavin Newsom said in a statement. “The board today affirmed the city’s commitment to be a strong partner to the BMW Oracle Racing team and to the Golden Gate Yacht Club if we are fortunate to be selected as the host city.”

San Francisco has pledged to help raise $270 million from corporate sponsors if it is chosen. The money would help defray the costs of staging the regatta.

If San Francisco is chosen, the event authority, which has yet to be formed, would pay $150 million to improve several piers in downtown San Francisco, then use those piers rent-free to stage the regatta. The event authority would receive long-term development rights.

One of the piers would be used to display USA-17, the massive trimaran with a radical 223-foot wing sail that BMW Oracle Racing sailed to a two-race sweep of Alinghi of Switzerland off Valencia in February to bring the oldest trophy in international sports back to the United States for the first time since 1995.

“A 9-2 vote is darn near unanimous in San Francisco,” Tony Winnicker, the mayor’s director of communications, told The Associated Press.

Daly threatened to use California Environmental Quality Act lawsuits to keep the America’s Cup from coming to San Francisco.

“I will bring a white squall to make sure those boats never see the water,” Daly said before the vote.

Daly has said he’s concerned there might be hidden costs to the city. Winnicker said Daly’s term ends in early January.

“In terms of CEQA, there is an unprecedented coalition from across the state, including many in the environmental community, united to bring the America’s Cup here,” Winnicker said. “We’ll go through a thorough process. We’re confident the support we have will allow us to meet the timeline to host the America’s Cup in 2013.”

If San Francisco is chosen to host the regatta, it would then negotiate and approve a host city agreement, Winnicker said.

Last week, the San Francisco America’s Cup Organizing Committee announced an honorary committee of local, state and national government leaders. Among them are Sen. Dianne Feinstein, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

San Francisco will get strong competition.

Sailing is more popular in Europe than in the United States, and some challenging teams feel their sponsors would get a better return if the regatta was sailed in European waters. The pool of potential challengers was reduced by one last week when Britain’s TeamOrigin announced it wouldn’t challenge in 2013 because the format and timetable weren’t viable.

Valencia has the team bases and port improvements in place from hosting the 2007 America’s Cup, the most recent traditional, multi-challenger regatta. The Spanish port also hosted the 33rd America’s Cup in February. That rare one-on-one match was the result of a bitter, 2½-year court fight between BMW Oracle Racing and Alinghi over rules and other issues.

Italy is in the mix because Club Nautico di Roma is the Challenger of Record, which represents the interests of all challengers.

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