America’s Cup: If not San Francisco, then where?

Published on January 28th, 2014

When it comes to the America’s Cup, a little history is helpful.

The 2007 America’s Cup in Valencia had upside. The International America’s Cup Class rule was in its fifth iteration; speed differences amongst the field were minimal. There were eleven challengers. The venue had variance, where a little leverage paid dividends.

The 32nd Match was tied 2-2 before the Defender Alinghi edged away from Challenger New Zealand in the final three races to win 5-2. But the Kiwis led in races 5 and 6, and lost the 7th and final race by a scarce 1 second. Close racing, outcome could have gone either way.

The America’s Cup was in Europe, and it had momentum. But then came the lawsuit, followed by the Deed of Gift mess in 2010. Momentum was lost.

The focus of the 2013 America’s Cup was to put the shine back on the Auld Mug, and while the lead up to the Match suffered from over-hype, new boat teething, and human suffering, the storybook ending saved the series.

With momentum clear in hand, the America’s Cup was now well positioned to grow further. Keep the plan simple, and build on what worked. No big changes. Just revise the boat slightly for affordability, instill a nationality rule for branding, but keep with the foiling catamarans and San Francisco venue.

The lessons learned from the 34th America’s Cup would guarantee the success of the next edition.

However, for the City of San Francisco, they could not justify again the expense (est. $5+ million), so their bid for the 35th Match was tuned accordingly. While this should have surprised no one, it has come as a disappointment to the Defender.

“It’s safe to say I’m not happy,” said Defense team CEO Russell Coutts. “It was a fantastic event in San Francisco. I don’t think anyone disputes that. The TV images were great. But we could go to another venue and have great racing. As we’ve gone into the process, it’s pretty evident there are some really strong venues. They might end up being better than San Francisco.”

Despite the disparaging comments from Coutts, Mayor Ed Lee remains hopeful that the America’s Cup sailing race will return to San Francisco in 2017.

“The mayor wants to use the lessons learned from the last America’s Cup event to host an even better event in 2017, and that means a more focused series of races and an agreement that protects San Francisco taxpayers,” said mayoral spokeswoman Christine Falvey. “He believes there is no better place to host these spectacular races than the San Francisco Bay, and we’ll continue to negotiate and hope to reach an agreement.”

The Defender is now actively scouting venue options. They are not revealing their list, but here are the likely candidates in the USA with Pros and Cons:

San Francisco, CA: Pros – Built in tourism, scenic, strong winds, viewable from land. Cons – Expensive, current-influenced race course.
Long Beach, CA: Pros – Affordable, solid winds, viewable from land. Cons – Lacks glamour.
San Diego, CA: Pros – Built in tourism. Cons – Lacks strong winds, likely held offshore.*
Hawaii: Pros – Seems like a good idea. Cons – All smoke and mirrors.
Newport, RI: Pros – Huge fan base, motivated government, viewable from land. Cons – Small town.
* (Updated Feb. 13) Proposal is to sail inside Bay. A course 2 miles long by .5 mile wide can fit inside Bay with wind angle between 260 and 280 degrees. Winds could be quite shifty, particularly near windward mark, and course would have tidal influence.

Can you add to these Pros and Cons? What other suitable venue options in the USA exist for an event in the summer season?

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