Coutts Predicts Venue Decision Soon

Standing on the shores of San Francisco Bay, speaking to a partisan crowd whose hopes he did nothing to dim, BMW Oracle Racing CEO Russell Coutts on Saturday night said that the venue of the 2013 America’s Cup would be announced, “I think this month.”

The city of San Francisco’s proposal for a cup village south of the Bay Bridge goes before the Land Use subcommittee of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors on Monday, with a possibility (small) that it could move to the full Board as soon as Tuesday. Mid-month is more likely, now that the rubber is hitting the road and the first glimmers of opposition are popping up. However, if Supervisor Chris Daly’s opposition is any indication (he originally joined the 11-0 vote in favor), there is plenty of room for reason to prevail. As quoted by John Coté in the San Francisco Chronicle, Daly is opposed “on general principle,” calling the benefits exaggerated.

Since Daly is being termed out of office in November, he doesn’t have to run against the creation of 9,000 jobs, but that bar he says he intends to open in San Francisco just might be the only bar in town shunned by sailors. (For those not cued-up on SF politics, Supervisor Daly has earned a reputation as kinda special.)

And it still hasn’t sunk in with a lot of people that the published-estimated benefits, accurate or not, are for a one-shot deal. If BMW Oracle Racing succeeds in winning the Cup again, the benefits continue to flow.

In 1986-87 I visited Fremantle, Australia, the once run-down port of the greater Perth region, reborn as home to an America’s Cup match. The event was the pride of all Australia, and the new Fremantle was a gem. It remains so to this day, a vital, bustling destination for locals and visitors alike.

In 2000 I visited Auckland, New Zealand, where a wanting stretch of waterfront, anticipating an America’s Cup match, had been reinvented as a showpiece.

In 2005 I visited Valencia, Spain, a city that had been looking for a signature event to capture the attention of the world. The port was blighted, dismaying to behold. By the time of the 2007 America’s Cup match, however, the port had been transformed into a point of pride, justly famed, and it looked darned good as a background for the Formula 1 races that followed.

Coutts was the featured speaker at The San Francisco Yacht Club’s Leukemia Cup Regatta, poised to once again prove the top producer of the many Leukemia Cup Regattas around the country ($655,000 in 2009; more than double number two). Saturday night was auction night, and the guests had of course ponied up considerable bucks to be at the dinner, even before the bidding began. Golden Gate Yacht Club Commodore Marcus Young arrived to find his table favor, a gimballed compass housed in a handsome wood box, and he opened the top and declared, “Cool, now I don’t need my iPhone anymore.”

The Leukemia Cup Regatta, Coutts said, “is about combining the sport we love with support for people we love.” He also had a word for the doomsdayers who declare the America’s Cup dead, its future in fast catamarans devoid of all the features of proper match racing. Those are, in his words, “mainly people who haven’t gone out and experienced match racing in fast multihulls, which we have done extensively.”
The catamaran choice depended upon that experience.

Two very unlucky/lucky young men would be Chris Laub and Campbell Nolan, both just kids, both victims of blood cancer and there is a horror in that too deep to try to talk about here. I don’t have words for it. But they are with us still, in part because cancer research is producing results, funded by efforts including the Leukemia Cup Regatta. On the lucky side of the equation, I do believe I heard Russell Coutts promising them each a ride on an AC 72 catamaran and I guarantee you, that will be the most prized ride in town.

By comparison, 15-year survivor Chris Kostanecki bid $8,500 to join an RC 44 crew for two days of regatta competition with Larry Ellison and Russell Coutts. OK, so he did laugh and say, “Oh s%#* when he realized the bidding was done and he had “won.”

It’s gonna be great, Chris, it’s gonna be great.

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