An alternative to the America’s Cup?

Published on May 7th, 2015

For the bulk of its history, the America’s Cup was a contest between clubs, and it was the club that organized its team and hosted the event. But that scheme went out the window when Alinghi won in 2003, with team owner Ernesto Bertarelli running the team then, and later the 2007 event, on behalf of Société Nautique de Genève.

When Larry Ellison sought to enter the 2003 America’s Cup, he went shopping for a club he also could control, and with Golden Gate Yacht Club on the brink of bankruptcy, he cut a deal which kept the club solvent and gave him the terms to keep decision-making within his power.

With Ellison now the holder of the America’s Cup, the relationship continues, but a recent news report from a Golden Gate Yacht Club officer seems to be questioning the affiliation the club has with Ellison and the America’s Cup.

Tom Ehman, Golden Gate Yacht Club Vice Commodore, a role Ehman has continuously held since 2011, is now planning a new international regatta, the Golden Gate Yacht Racing Challenge, which will be sailed annually on San Francisco Bay beginning in July 2017 in an updated version of the venerable 12-meter class.

“This is an opportunity to do something for the sport and the former cup community,” Ehman said from San Francisco. “There’s a crying need in the world of yacht racing for such an event, especially in monohulls and especially in a lot of breeze. We’re seeing that because of what’s happening or not happening in other parts of the sport and in other parts of the world.”

According to Ehman, the regatta will offer a $500,000 prize purse, and he is working to secure sponsors. However, the event will not be affiliated with the Golden Gate Yacht Club.

“I think the America’s Cup is off on its own and always has been,” Ehman said. “The America’s Cup will survive the current situation. There is obviously strong interest in monohull racing with strong teams, in boats everyone has heard of and loves. There is a nostalgia and romance with the 12-meters, and to have those boats racing in a lot of breeze on San Francisco Bay where people can watch it, it will remind people of how great the America’s Cup was in Fremantle in 1987 in windy conditions in 12s.”

Ehman hopes to attract team owners who have been priced out, or turned off, by the America’s Cup, an event in which his club is the trustee.

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