San Francisco authorities must dig deep to save America's Cup


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The Independent Online

A last ditch attempt by the city's port authorities to rescue a vital component of the America’s Cup in San Francisco next year is being hammered out with the event organisers.

It would involve the city putting in an initial $7m to 8m with a total spend of $18m to renovate piers 30 and 32 in a downtown area which could then accommodate up to five challenger syndicates.

An earlier scheme with at least $80m of total renovation which would have given the defence team, Oracle, owned by local software billionaire Larry Ellison, property development rights was shelved less than 48 hours before being put to the city’s 11-strong Board of Supervisors for approval.

Negotiations had been long and tortuous in a city notorious for highly active special interest groups. But the addition of a competitor facility that would allow the public to see the teams during the two months of the 161-year old event from July 4 next year was seen as a vital bookend to the race village, on piers 27 and 29. All of them are accessible from the central ferry building and on a popular waterside walkway which runs through Fisherman’s Wharf and all the way to Golden Gate Bridge.

The walkway will also offer many spectator viewing points, with big screen points along the way. The finish line for the races is just off the America’s Cup village.

The enemy for both sides is time. The organisers want to be able to welcome teams as soon after 1 July as possible, the date for the launch of the newest 72-foot wing-powered catamarans in which AC34 will be contested and without a definite plan for so much work would simply not be able to meet deadlines.

There is also a prologue regatta in 45-foot versions of the catamarans, part of the America’s Cup World Series, now delayed until October this year. There has been plans for two regattas in September but one of them may now be moved to New York in late August, following the conclusion of the 2011-12 series in Newport, Rhode Island in June. Italy hosts events in Naples in April and Venice in May.

The city needs to follow all its procedures and these, in the past, have either held up development or led to projects being scrapped. If both sides can agree, the revised and scaled down programme will be put to the Board of Supervisors on 27 March.

The main base for the defence team is miles away on Pier 80, though that could still be used by all the teams for major repairs. The smaller of two vast sheds is 340,000 square feet.

Only three challengers are seen as certain at the moment, Sweden’s Artemis, Italy’s Prada-backed Luna Rossa, and an aggressive Team New Zealand trying to take the Cup away from America for the second time.

But there are continuing hopes that two more will join the party – the South Korean government is said to be close to granting some funding – and the China Team insists that it is in full training to take part next year.