Could SF host the next America's Cup race?

February 15, 2010 6:55:50 PM PST
The America's Cup, sailing's top prize, is on its way to San Francisco. While it will be nice to have the trophy on display here, the real prize is hosting the regatta itself.

The Golden Gate Yacht Club is not the biggest yacht club in the Bay Area, or the fanciest, but it is going to be the new home to sailing's Holy Grail. Oracle CEOLarry Ellison's win in his space-age trimaran off Valencia, Spain insures that Golden Gate Yacht Club will get the trophy. But where the next America's Cup regatta will be is still undecided.

"I think about a Super Bowl of racing, you know, and I think about all the players that come to town," Golden Gate Yacht Club Robert Repke, of the Golden Gate Yacht Club, said.

The hills around San Francisco Bay make it a natural stadium for watching the races. And there's no question there is plenty of wind.

So what would keep the race form San Francisco?

"What it'll probably come down to more than anything else is just the infrastructure in San Francisco," Golden Gate Yacht Club Commodore Marcus Young said.

The waterfront space and facilities has to be able to host as many as a dozen teams for up to a year.

San Diego has already hosted an America's Cup and they would like to again. The city figures the run up to the event and the races pumped $500 million into the local economy in 1995.

Ellison home ported his racing yacht in San Diego and one of the city's most prominent businessmen has asked the mayor to contact Ellison about bringing the race back.

The Golden Gate Yacht Club hopes San Francisco's supervisors are thinking the same way.

"I would hope that that would be part of, would at least be on their radar, that they're thinking about this," yacht club member Ray Thomas said.

Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi grew up near Newport, Rhode Island, the long time home of the America's Cup regatta and he knows what it could mean for the city.

"I think San Francisco would be very innovative and forward thinking in being able to help build an infrastructure that would more than pay for itself by being a host for the America's Cup," Mirkarimi said.

There is one legal snag to holding the races in San Francisco Bay -- the rules say the race must be held in open water free from headlands. The hope is the participants will all agree to race in the bay despite nearby headlands.