US politician lodges petition to derail America's Cup progress


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The Independent Online

A legal petition by a leading San Francisco politician to derail progress on preparations for next year’s America’s Cup has been lodged in the California courts.

Aaron Peskin, a former president of the city’s Board of Supervisors, wants to delay a decision by the present board to give the go-ahead to a $55m. deal which would  commit financial support from the city and give the green light to extensive waterfront development. In addition San Francisco would pump $32. into the event.

The 11-member board is due to vote on Tuesday, but Peskin wants a further environmental impact study. He says that if the board is willing to delay its vote he will withdraw his law suit; otherwise he wants a judicial block on a move which would see building works begin next month.

The lawsuit alleges the city failed to properly review the environment impacts that the event will have on the San Francisco Bay and the city. It asks a judge to order a halt to construction until the lawsuit is resolved.

The lawsuit names the city, its board and planning commission, organizers of the event. several construction companies, architectural firms and yacht clubs.

Stephen Barclay, the director of the independent America’s Cup Event Authority (ACEA) but also chief operating officer of the defending Oracle Racing team, says that a 12-month timetable has already been condensed by delay into nine months. While saying that he expected continued support from the city “of course there is always a plan B.”

He said the $55m. plan is to upgrade the old piers “but we want to be reimbursed.” That would be done by commercial property rental income of up to $55m. plus interest at 11 per cent., on the waterfront property given rent free for up to 66 years or however long it took to make the money back, after which the property would be returned to the port and the city. ACEA can also sell the rent stream.

Local politicians and activists, described by Barclay as “some of the more liberal members” had been “getting a lot of press about this being a property deal. We have drawn a line in the sand and said they must decide on 28 February. If they vote it down we’d huddle fairly quickly and it would not be all over.”

While the Cup is technically held by the Golden Gate Yacht Club, the team which won it and which is due to defend it in September next year is funded and entirely in the control of Oracle computer software boss Larry Ellison, one of the 10 richest men in the world.

One economic impact forecast said that the cup defence, plus the challenger elimination series, would be worth $1.4bn to the city and 9,000 jobs. So far, however, only three teams, Sweden’s Artemis, backed by commodities trader Torbjorn Tornqvist, Italy’s Luna Rossa, supported by Patrizio Bertelli’s Prada fashion house, and Team New Zealand, backed by both the government and commercial sponsors, are confirmed to challenge in 72-foot wing-sailed catamarans.

The cup, originally won by the yacht America in a race round the Isle of Wight in 1851, claims to be the longest running in international sport; international because the Doggett’s Coat and Badge rowing race has been run on the Thames since 1715.

After a bitter legal battle, it was won 2-0 in a best-of-three races between monster multihulls off Valencia in 2010, the Californian team easily beating the Swiss holder, Ernesto Bertarelli’s Alinghi team.

On the fourth leg of the Volvo round the world race, the fleet of six is still two days behind schedule, having been delayed for almost 24 hours when starting from Sanya, Hainan Island, China. Working hard to retain its lead on the way to the home port of Auckland, the Team New Zealand-managed Spanish entry, Camper, is still in front.

But there are still over 4,000 miles to go and the American-flagged Puma is still convinced that its tactical gamble of sailing north to skirt the light winds that have plagued their rivals will eventually pay off.