Change needed for America’s Cup management

Published on November 29th, 2014

by Bernie Wilson, AP
It’s a quaint notion in the archaic America’s Cup, even if stands little to no chance of ever coming to be.

Malin Burnham, a San Diego native who is a long-time sailing, civic and business leader, wants the America’s Cup to be run by an independent organization, putting sailing’s marquee regatta on similar footing as mainstream sports.

Burnham first made his pitch privately in 2013 in a letter to Larry Ellison, the software billionaire who owns two-time America’s Cup champion Oracle Team USA.

Ellison didn’t respond.

Burnham went public after the American tycoon chose the tax haven of Bermuda, a British territory, over San Diego to host the 2017 America’s Cup.

“I’m frustrated. I absolutely know in my heart and my mind what needs to be done and I’d like to get people rallied around that issue and attempt to move forward in a very cooperative, collaborative way,” Burnham said. “I’m not here to tell Larry Ellison or Team Oracle how to run their own operation, but I’m not bashful to say it’s past time to change the future management of the America’s Cup.”

Burnham was chairman of Dennis Conner’s winning effort in 1987 and also chairman of the San Diego Yacht Club’s defense in 1988 and 1992. He’s quick to take his share of the blame for one of the ugliest chapters in the regatta’s 163-year history. After Conner won back the America’s Cup from Australia in 1987, organizers took too long deciding whether they’d defend in San Diego or Hawaii.

That allowed New Zealand merchant banker Michael Fay to issue a rogue challenge. The 1988 America’s Cup was an embarrassing mismatch, with Conner sailing a catamaran to a two-race sweep of Fay’s plodding sloop, a victory ultimately upheld after a long court case.

Little has changed since then.

The America’s Cup winner picks the venue and sets certain conditions for the next regatta while negotiating rules with the challengers.

Ellison didn’t respond to a request for comment. Russell Coutts, who has consolidated his power into an almost de facto commissioner’s role, declined comment.
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