Friday 24 March 2017

Competition to host America's Cup at boiling point

W M Nixon

High politics has entered the fray in the battle to host the 2013 America's Cup.

This week America's West Coast made a serious pitch, with a bid unanimously backed by all 11 of the supervisors of the City and County of San Francisco.

But the New York establishment, which has hosted more America's Cup contests than any other, has been quietly keeping a hat in the ring with a mature bid.

And now, events in Europe are taking a hand. The survival of a vote of confidence by Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi has greatly strengthened Italy's bid to host in 2013, which he supported both as a major event in its own right and as a build-up to Italian hosting of the Olympics in 2020.

As everyone knows, when it comes to hosting spectacular events, Berlusconi is in a league of his own and as the Italians are the 'Challengers of Record' under the highly specialised America's Cup rules, they have a strong campaign under way.

The San Francisco offer does not seem to be what Larry Ellison and his defending Golden Gate Yacht Club BMW Oracle team were seeking. For four months, the Ellison negotiators had sought an event staged from the centre of the city's waterfront. But the San Francisco officials' 'Alternative Plan' then clearly emerged, when a radical proposal, known as the Northern Alternative, which would revitalise a derelict part of the city's waterfront was put forward.

The America's Cup being the pinnacle of sailing, the outcome of all this wheeling and dealing is significant -- before anyone has even set foot in a boat. So, it's possible that the New York/Newport offer might be the favoured choice as it's less contentious than either of the others.

The uncertainty about the venue is part of the America's Cup game and it is something which any developing challenge must factor into their campaign.

Ireland's Harold Cudmore, who trained Australia's John Bertrand prior to the final race of the 1983 challenge, which Bertrand won to take the title from the Americans after 132 years, was in Dublin recently for the inaugural Joe English Trust fundraiser.

English, from Cork, was Ireland's Volvo Race skipper 20 years ago, and has sadly been diagnosed with early- onset Alzheimers. But thanks to Dave Cullen's efforts in Howth, the fund to help Joe and his family got a mighty launching with €20,000 raised, and the punters certainly got their money's worth with insights from Cudmore about the inner stories of top-level international sailing.

That said, for the day that was in it, he was charitable about the withdrawal of the British Team Origin from the America's Cup campaign. They have claimed that the reason for withdrawing was not so much to do with lack of resources, but the lack of time to make the complete change from mono-hulls to the 72ft multihulls now envisaged.

However, since it was confirmed recently that these 72ft catamarans would be used (which also caused the withdrawal of a German challenge), the French have hoisted their flag and so too have Sweden, while there are serious moves afloat in Canada.

Irish Independent

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