SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS) – For much of the finals, it seemed all but certain the next America’s Cup would be contested in New Zealand. After Oracle Team USA’s stunning comeback Wednesday, organizers declared the regatta a success.
“It was the most magnificent spectacle I’ve ever seen on the water,” said Oracle tycoon Larry Ellison. “San Francisco Bay is a great backdrop for a sailboat race.”
More than 1 million fans watching the races from the shores seemed to agree, giving Ellison the chance to declare victory in more ways than one as the party raged on Pier 27.
“We’re going to sit down and talk with the officials in San Francisco and see if that’s going to be possible to come back. Personally I’d love to come back to San Francisco. I have a house here,” he said.
His regatta still has detractors at City Hall who say San Francisco paid too much for an event that generated significantly less than the $1.4 billion of economic activity projected when the deal was signed by outgoing Mayor Gavin Newsom.
There was a death during a training race. Many countries bowed out because they couldn’t afford the expensive 72-foot catamarans. Even Ellison admits he overreached in what he asked of city officials, but both he and the mayor seem ready to try it all again in three or four years.
“Without question, I would and I think the rest of the city having learned how to watch and appreciate these races would really welcome America’s Cup back,” said Mayor Ed Lee.
Lee promised much greater scrutiny if the Golden Gate Yacht Club, which hosts Team Oracle, approaches the city about staging the next America’s Cup in San Francisco.
“The real thing here is what kind of deal do we want to make,” Lee said, “to make sure that we’re a little more accurate about what the costs are and how we host this event.”
“Of course, they had some big pronouncements and while they didn’t turn out, I think we have come to appreciate what these are and we would always do better at the second time.”
“If Mr. Ellison wants to have a conversation with the city we ought to have a conversation, but certainly if we were to move forward we’d really have to consider how our city does it and what our role is with a new event,” he said.
Chiu said he would like to see more nation’s involved, something Ellison said he’d try to achieve, and wants more connections to neighborhood San Franciscans, not just tourists.
Supervisor John Avalos, a fierce opponent of the cup deal, agreed with Chiu’s concerns and said organizers must pick up all of the cost next time
Avalos said the organizing committee was disingenuous about private fundraising
“There was a commitment that was made to raise money. The organizing committee responsible fell way short of that,” Avalos said.
The committees raised more that $16 million so far. City costs have been around $20 million with fundraising ongoing.
Besides answering critics from the city, Ellison must also must find a way to attract as many international challengers as possible. Organizers will have to decide whether the speed of the 72-foot catamarans outweighs a cost that proved prohibitive for some of the international teams.
“We’re all going to sit down and talk about, you know, what kind of boats we want to use going forward,” Ellison said.
For now, though, the billionaire is basking in the glow of victory and the big boost for sailing.
“The regatta was absolutely spectacular,” he said. “If a bunch of kids are watching this regatta on television and they’re inspired and they go out racing Lasers, I’m a happy guy,” he said.
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