America’s Cup. The Word is “Eager”

Race fans, professional sailors, would-be challengers for America’s Cup, all await a venue decision on the part of the Defenders, Golden Gate Yacht Club and BMW Oracle Racing. All have been given reason to expect the nod to go to San Francisco Bay for a Cup match in 2013, unless the city drops the ball.

Which I don’t think it will.

And perhaps we don’t have much longer to wait, certainly not until the December 30 deadline.

Kyri McClellan, America’s Cup project manager for San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, yesterday addressed the press corps gathered at St. Francis Yacht Club for the Rolex Big Boat Series and told them, “I’d be surprised if it takes that long. The team is eager.”

As eager as everyone else, apparently.

The Mayor’s office is assembling the details of an ambitious proposal to soon be presented to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, which has endorsed the project, in principle, on a vote of 11-0. The project would revitalize the southern waterfront, and frankly, I’ve never seen an issue for which all the political elements of the city aligned—with a degree of fervor, even. It’s unprecedented. The Bay Conservation and Development Commissioners endorsed AC-N-SF unanimously, and the leading environmental organizations are aboard for a plan by which existing, crumbling piers would be rebuilt, with longterm leases to allow investors to profit over the long term. Meanwhile, structures to house America’s Cup teams and a public interface would be temporary structures, for the life of AC-N-SF. After that, leaseholders would have to begin afresh with environmental and political review of any building or usage they might want to undertake.

Every element of the plan, McClellan said, “is consistent with the public trust.”

And the choice of catamarans over deep-draft monohulls relieves developers of much of the dredging that would have been necessary for monohulls.

The Mayor’s plan calls for a public interface at Piers 30 and 32, McClellan said. The teams would be based farther south, at Pier 50—down camera from every Giants baseball game—and the teams’ 72-foot AC catamarans would be brought over to a basin at Pier 32 each morning, on display for the public. The teams would arrive by boat, to be visible and speaking to the public, before boarding their boats for the race day. Sailors and boats would all return to the basin at the end of racing for more public interaction. Only later would support crew move the boats home to Pier 50.

The vision is to have one pre-event on San Francisco Bay in 2011 and one in 2012, with the teams moving into their bases early in 2013. It’s a compressed time frame, but doable. “We got through the environmental review on SF General in eleven months,” McClellan said. “We did the ball park in fourteen months.” (And the ball park was contentious. I seem to recall angry people claiming that it could never, possibly, work.)

For the pre-events, there could be staging at the 80-acre cargo facility of Pier 80.

To a question about political will and continuity—there’s an election in November, and Mayor Gavin Newsom is running for Lieutenant Governor—McClellan explained the goal of creating a structure that will withstand personnel changes and added, “The Lieutenant Governor oversees the State Lands Commission, and he would still be living here and sending his daughter to school here.”

And to the inevitable question about what Larry really wants to do, here is my answer. We would not be this far down the road unless Mr. Ellison wanted very much to defend the America’s Cup on San Francisco Bay, for any of many reasons. And yes, there are fears of a hangup here and a hangup there, but really now? Is that going to hang up Larry Ellison?

Is the man who went after the America’s Cup in a giant trimaran with a wing sail too tall to fit under the Golden Gate Bridge, then decided to defend in wing-sailed catamarans on short legs with rapid roundings—the man who is leading the America’s Cup boldly where it’s never been before, is this guy quaking in his boots that some neighborhood association is going to bring down an event that promises 9000 jobs and a $1.4 billion boost to the regional economy?

Get over it, and get with it. Send your emails of support to the Mayor, to the Supervisors, to your Legislators, but first of all to [email protected]. Those letters will be bundled as part of the presentation to the Board of Supervisors—the same people, I remind you again and again, who voted 11-0 in favor, on principle. Now we’re getting down to the short strokes, and that is one way that, honest, you can make a difference..

America’s Cup on San Francisco Bay. It’s going to be highly disruptive, and very cool.

Suns New Jerseys