Huffpost San Francisco

America's Cup May Move First Race To New York

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I'm on a boat.
I'm on a boat.

In a move that came as a surprise to officials on San Francisco's Board of Supervisors, the organizers of the America's Cup yacht race may be moving one of this fall's preliminary events, originally scheduled for San Francisco, to the waters off New York City.

"It's not a strong possibility, but it is a possibility," America's Cup spokesperson Stephanie Martin told NBC Bay Area. "The opportunity to bring the AC World Series to another iconic American venue and one that would provide such tremendous exposure as New York is very attractive, so we're investigating the possibilities."

The move comes in the wake (no pun intended) of the collapse of negotiations between the America's Cup Event Authority, a group backed by Oracle billionaire Larry Ellison, and the city of San Francisco that would have given the authority 66 years of rent-free access to two currently unused piers, as well as another nearby lot, in exchange for the authority's agreement to spend some $55 million fixing up the dilapidated structures.

The Associated Press reports:

Lee said the change was made after negotiators concluded they didn't have enough time to solve the financial, environmental and regulatory issues necessary to refurbish the piers in time for the challengers to move in and convert to their headquarters. Training runs can began on the Bay in July. The agreement was also criticized by some supervisors and others as too sweet of a deal for Ellison and the city budget analyst recommended San Francisco share some of the future revenues from the property.

The elimination of this deal was estimated to have saved the city some $10 million and is, at least partially, seen as the aftermath of a recent report released by city budget analyst Harvey Rose showing that San Francisco's bill for hosting the world-famous series of yacht races would have been around $111 million if the agreement went though--more than twice what was originally projected.

An anonymous source close to the America's Cup Event Authority told SF Weekly that the threat of moving the race was, "likely nothing more than a 'head-fake' from an event authority angry over a scaled-down deal."

However, the event's organizers assert that the reason for the proposed eastward shift is more about drumming up national support than any sense of getting back at San Francisco for denying them what would have doubtlessly been a highly lucrative opportunity.

"One of the challenges we have is to engage America," Stephen Barclay, an executive with the America's Cup Event Authority, told the San Francisco Chronicle. "Having these things racing around the Statue of Liberty would engage the East Coast."

Even if a change of venue does happen for this particular race, there's still guaranteed to be America's Cup action hitting the San Francisco Bay later this year. Another preliminary race is scheduled for October.

Over the next two years, the event also has races scheduled in Venice and Naples, Italy as well as Newport, Rhode Island.

Check out The Huffington Post's Great Debate on the question: "Is the America's Cup good for San Francisco?"

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Filed by Aaron Sankin