2014-02-14 / Front Page

Newport in Mix for Cup Events

By Tom Shevlin

(Cartoon by Dorcie Sarantos) (Cartoon by Dorcie Sarantos) Negotiations between the America’s Cup defender Oracle Team USA and the city of San Francisco have stalled, and Newport is once again being bandied about as a potential alternative to host the next America’s Cup.

A report last week in the San Francisco Chronicle detailed the row, which went public after it became clear the two sides wouldn’t be able to meet a March 1 deadline to announce details about the race, including venue, boat design, and rules.

According to Oracle Team USA CEO Russell Coutts, a new deadline is now being set for this summer in order to evaluate proposals from other sites.

Speaking to the Chronicle, Coutts said that San Diego, Hawaii, and “one Northern state” are currently under consideration. And while he didn’t specifically mention Newport, which hosted the Cup from 1930 until 1983, sailing media has been abuzz over the possibility.

On Tuesday, Brad Read, the executive director of Sail Newport, confirmed that organizers have indeed reached out to his office to gauge the city’s level of interest in bringing the Cup back to Rhode Island.

“We’ve been approached and we’re kind of waiting for the process to start,” Read said, adding, “There is a process; it’s been explained to us.”

In all, five venues – four in the U.S. and one unnamed international site – are being considered to host the next America’s Cup. Newport’s odds, though alive, appear long.

Coutts told the Chronicle that San Francisco remains syndicate head Larry Ellison’s top choice and that both sides had hoped the event would return to the city.

"I was hoping we'd be able to complete a deal (with San Francisco) – because everyone knew what it was – relatively quickly," Coutts said. "Now that we've had to go out to other venues, we've got to obviously do our due diligence on that. Let's wait and see what they come back with."

Ellison, who is currently converting the former Astor estate, Beechwood, into a private art museum, is said to appreciate Newport’s rich association with the Cup and its prime sailing grounds. That the city is again being considered as a host venue speaks to that affinity.

Newport was faced with a similar situation three years ago after Ellison’s BMW Oracle team won back the Auld Mug in resounding fashion off the coast of Spain. After initial discussions with San Francisco, Ellison turned his sights to Newport, which, with the support of Statehouse leaders, put together a bid package that would have used Fort Adams as a race hub and the East Passage as its course.

Ultimately, the effort came up short, with Newport instead being chosen as one of a select number of host ports for the inaugural edition of the America’s Cup World Series. That event, proponents say, will likely help boost the chances for Newport to again host some component regatta for the next defense, details of which are expected to be released in the coming months.

It’s estimated that the 2013 America’s Cup generated roughly $360 million in economic activity for San Francisco businesses, while costing the city $11.5 million. Initial reports estimated the event would generate over $1 billion in economic activity; however, with only three teams able to meet the high cost of entry into the race, critics say that the event fell short economically. If that’s the case, it made up for it on the water, as Team USA staged an epic comeback over a weeklong span that became the talk of the sporting world.

Sail Newport’s Read is due to address the matter during a special presentation at the Jane Pickens Theater on Thursday, Feb. 13 about the upcoming Volvo Ocean Race, for which Newport will serve as the lone North American stopover.

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